High Court Ok's State Regulation over Indian Bingo

Article excerpt

Tuesday that federal law contains no ""absolute bar'' to state regulation of bingo games in ""Indian Countr y.''

In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state, reversing a ruling by Ottawa County District Judge Jon D. Douthitt, who had decreed he had no jurisdiction on two state suits brought against the Seneca-Cayuga and Quapaw Tribes.

The case was remanded to the Ottawa County court for further consideration.

The state court held that the lands in question were ""Indian Country,'' as defined by the U.S. Congress, but said there was no absolute prohibition against state regulation of bingo games or otheractivities which affect non-Indians.

""Whether the state may regulate the playing of bingo in Indian Country presents a mixed issue of law and fact which must be resolved after an evidentiary hearing in the trial court,'' Justice Marian Opala wrote.

The ruling was on an appeal lodged by the state in two consolidated lawsuits seeking to enjoin the Seneca-Cayuga and Quapaw Tribes from conducting bingo games without a state license.

""...We hold that the state regulation of bingo games conducted in Indian Country is permissible only if, and to the extent that, the activity is shown to affect non-Indians and Indians who are non-members of the self-governing unit,'' Opalla wrote.

Traditionally, state regulation of activities on Indian lands has been virtually non-existent because of a legal guagmire that has produced conflicting court rulings on whether Indian activities should be regulated by state, federal or tribal governments. …