California Tribes to Continue Fight for Protecting Gaming Exclusivity

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The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California has dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation for breach of their respective compacts with the State of California.

The court acknowledged the exclusive right of tribes to conduct banked card games. The ruling constituted a procedural finding by the court that it lacked the power to require the State to enforce the law under the tribes’ compacts.

The court reasoned the State had not promised to protect the tribes’ right to gaming exclusivity ― despite compact language acknowledging “the exclusive right” each tribe enjoyed under its Compact “to operate a gaming facility in an economic environment free of competition from the operation of slot machines and banked card games on non-Indian lands.”

Notably, the State does not dispute the merits of the case. To the contrary, as detailed in the tribes’ complaint, various high-ranking representatives have acknowledged that the California cardrooms are playing unlawful house-banked card games, and are also playing blackjack, which is illegal under the Penal Code. But, the State is doing either little or nothing to stop the cardrooms’ unlawful conduct.

Despite the court’s ruling, the tribes will continue their efforts to preserve the rights guaranteed to them.