In a victory for Indian tribes in California, a federal judge says the state violated legal boundaries in the demands it made during lengthy negotiations to renew gambling casino contracts with five tribes. The ruling could lead to construction of new casinos outside the tribes’ reservations.
Casino gambling on tribal lands was authorized by federal law in 1988 and expanded in California by ballot measures in 1998 and 2000. But the tribes must periodically negotiate renewals of casino agreements with the state, and after five years of unsuccessful talks, five small tribes filed suit in 2019 accusing the state of demanding changes in policies outside the scope of the 1988 law, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii of Fresno said state negotiators had exceeded the scope of the law by demanding tribal enforcement of state court orders for child support and spousal support in divorce cases.
He said state negotiators may have also crossed the law’s boundaries by seeking tribal compliance with a wide range of California laws — on wages, discrimination, environmental review of land use and construction projects, and suits for injuries on tribal property. California can still negotiate agreements on those issues, Ishii said, if it offers the tribes “meaningful concessions” in other areas.
Those concessions could include approval of casinos outside the reservations, Lester Marston, a lawyer for the tribes, said Friday. Although the ruling applies only to the five tribes, he said it could prompt others that have been in negotiations with […]