Appeals court rules in favor of Tribe

Published 4:22 pm Thursday, September 3, 2015

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a lower court’s opinion that the state cannot regulate gaming on tribal lands.

A federal appeals court Thursday rejected a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Luther Strange aimed at removing electronic bingo machines from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ properties.

Strange argued in his initial lawsuit that the bingo machines were slot machines, which are illegal under state law. The suit claimed that federal law gave the state an implied right to sue in federal court to enforce its state laws on tribal lands.

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The tribe, joined by the U.S. government, said the machines were a form of bingo. Federal law lists bingo games as Class II gaming, which tribes can operate on their own. Class III gaming includes slot machines and traditional casino gaming. Tribes must enter compacts with states to conduct Class III gaming. The law cited by the state allows federal lawsuits if tribes violate Class III compacts.

In a statement released by his office, Strange said, “From the beginning it has been my goal to settle the question of the legality of gambling at Indian-run casinos in Alabama once and for all. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the district court’s opinion that the United States is the only government that can enforce state and federal gambling laws on the PCI’s lands. While I do not agree with the Appeals Court’s decision, it provides certainty and guidance to state officials where there was none before. The Appeals Court’s decision makes it clear that the only way for the State of Alabama to regulate the gambling conducted on the PCI’s lands is to enter into a compact with the PCI. That is a decision for the Governor and Legislature, not me. After thoroughly reviewing the decision, I do not intend to petition for review in the United States Supreme Court.”