10th Circuit rules for Kialegee Tribal Town in casino dispute

Artist's rendering of the proposed Red Clay Casino in Broken Arrrow, Oklahoma. Image from Red Clay Casino

The Kialegee Tribal Town and its leaders can't be sued by the state of Oklahoma in a gaming dispute, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

The tribe announced plans to open the Red Clay Casino on an Indian allotment near Tulsa. The state won an injunction that prevented the project from moving forward on the grounds that the activity there would violate the Class III gaming compact.

On appeal, the 10th Circuit reversed. The court noted that the allotment is not considered "Indian lands" as that term is defined by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

That's the same same conclusion reached by the U.S. Supreme Court in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community this May. The 10th Circuit had been waiting to hear from a higher authority on the matter and came back in favor of the Kialegee Tribe.

"We once again address the subject of Indian gaming and, following the lead of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Communit, emphasize that any federal cause of action brought pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii) of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to enjoin class III gaming activity must allege and ultimately establish that the gaming 'is located on Indian lands,'" the 10th Circuit said in the unanimous decision.

Additionally, the 10th Circuit resolved another key question -- whether the state can sue individual tribal officials for allegedly violating the compact. The answer was a clear no: the state must pursue arbitration under Part 12 of the agreement.

"Thus, the state is clearly precluded by Part 12 from suing the defendant tribal officials in federal court for purported violations of the tribal-state gaming compact," the 10th Circuit concluded.

The ruling is a victory for the tribe and its leaders. But it does not mean the casino can move forward -- the National Indian Gaming Commission has said the allotment doesn't qualify for a casino, as the 10th Circuit pointed out.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Oklahoma v. Hobia.

10th Circuit Decision:
Oklahoma v. Hobia (November 10, 2014)

NIGC Indian Land Opinions
May 25, 2012 | June 8, 2012

Related Stories:
Kialegee Tribal Town seeks dismissal of state's gaming lawsuit (07/17)

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