Joe Benitez, right, an elder of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, conducts a blessing to start the February 25, 2017, gala at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. Photo: Morongo Band
California | Legislation | Litigation

California tribes celebrate anniversary of Supreme Court decision



Tribes in southern California marked the 30th anniversary of a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling that affirmed their sovereign right to engage in gaming.

On February 25, 1987, the nation's highest court issued its decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. By a 6-3 vote, the justices confirmed that the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians can operate casinos without being regulated by the state.

“The Supreme Court ruling put tribes on the road to self-reliance by establishing new revenues for tribes to use to provide vital services to our people," Chairman Robert Martin of the Morongo Band said in a press release.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: U.S. Supreme Court Oral Arguments in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians
The decision led Congress to pass the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. The law granted states a role in regulating certain forms of gaming in Indian Country, essentially overruling the Supreme Court on that particular point.

Tribes and states across the nation have since negotiated compacts to address the regulation of slot machines, table games and similar Class III games. In California, the agreements have led to millions of dollars being sent to local governments, schools and non-profits.

“We’ve come a long away, but we still have a long way to go,” Chairman Martin said. “It’s been a good 30 years, and we hope to make the next 30 years even better as Indian Country continues to move forward.”

Read More on the Story:
California tribes recall Indian gaming ruling that changed their fortunes (The Palm Springs Desert Sun 2/24)
Tribes celebrating 30th anniversary of landmark court decision (The Riverside Press-Enterprise 2/24)

An Opinion:
David G. Schwartz / Green Felt Journal: 30 Years of Tribal Gaming (Vegas Seven 3/1)