The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, also known as Tiguas, challenged a 28-year-old decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that subjected the Pueblo’s gambling activities to regulation by the State of Texas.
Led by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who authored the majority opinion, the nation’s high court reasoned that the lower court had erred in its interpretation of the tribe’s 1987 Restoration Act and other federal laws. Much of the controversy in the case came down to hairsplitting about the difference between “prohibit” and “regulate.”
Texas contended that bingo is a prohibited activity, which consequently barred the Tiguas from offering it at their entertainment venue. On the other hand, the Tiguas argued that Texas allows bingo under certain circumstances, which means it’s fair game for the tribe.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Gorsuch in his opinion favoring the Tiguas.
Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh, issued a dissenting opinion.
The high court granted an appeal in the case last October and oral argument took place in April.
Sen. César Blanco (D-El Paso) celebrated the decision in a post on social media, framing it as a win for the independence of the tribe and economic development.
“This SCOTUS decision is a major victory for the Tiguas & their sovereignty! The decision will allow the tribe to legally operate bingo-based games, supporting hundreds of jobs & enriching the lives [within] the tribe,” Blanco tweeted.
Another one of Texas’ federally recognized tribes, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, has also quarreled with the State of Texas to offer gambling at Naskila Gaming, its entertainment center in Livingston.
A federal judge in Beaumont decided in the AC Tribe’s favor last September.
The Texas Constitution prohibits most forms of gambling, though bingo is permitted on a limited basis along with other exceptions.
A copy of the Supreme Court’s decision in the tribal gambling case can be found below.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."