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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was brought to the 1987 Senate by Daniel Inouye (D-HI); passed into law September 27, 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. 25 U.S.C.A. § 2701, IGRA was a culmination of decades of struggle between Native American tribes’ inherent rights to sovereignty (only Federal Government may treat with Native American tribes) versus what individual States felt was fair to them.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” – 10th Amendment

Two landmark legal decisions led to IGRA:

Bryan v. Itasca County (1972) – Minnesota tried to assess State Property tax against a mobile home on Chippewa Tribe land. The family claimed the state lacked jurisdiction. While Public Law 280 (passed by the 1953 Congress) deferred criminal jurisdiction over Indian Reservations from federal government to certain States, it was found in a Supreme Court decision that PL 280 did not grant unilateral jurisdiction over civil regulatory laws.

California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians (mid 1980s) – California sought to prevent a for-profit bingo parlor. Cabazon tribe filed suit, citing state lottery as gambling; the state’s stance on gambling was regulatory, not prohibitory. This decision decreed income derived from gaming halls on Indian Reservations belonged to the tribe and could not be regulated by the State.

Class ITraditional Indian Gaming
May be part of tribal ceremonies / celebrations; Social gaming for minimal prizes. Tribal governments have full regulatory authority.

Class IIGames of Chance
Bingo; ‘lottery’; non-banked card games. Tribal governments have full regulatory authority IF state permits any such gaming (only Hawaii / Utah prohibit)

Class IIIOther
Electronics; ‘casino games’. Tribe may offer, with complex regulations.


1 - Wikipedia "Indian Reorganization Act accessed 7/18/2019
2 - NCSL "Trust Land Overview" accessed 7/18/2019
3 - NCSL "Land Trust Project" accessed 7/18/2019

BQ-03-299

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