Articles Posted in Gaming Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants Pueblo of Pojoaque appealed a district court’s dismissal of its claim for declaratory and injunctive relief based on the New Mexico’s alleged unlawful interference with Class III gaming operations on the Pueblo’s lands. In July 2005, the Pueblo and New Mexico executed a Class III gaming compact pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”) that allowed it to operate casino-style gaming on its lands. Prior to the expiration of the compact, the New Mexico Gaming Control Board (“the Gaming Board”) sought to perform its annual compliance review of the Pueblo’s gaming operations. The Pueblo complied on June 24; on June 30, 2015, the compact expired at midnight. The Gaming Board announced that despite the U.S. Attorney’s decision allowing the Pueblo’s gaming operations to continue pending the review, the Pueblo’s casinos were operating illegally due to the absence of a compact, and it placed in abeyance approval of any license application or renewal for vendors who did business with the Pueblo. The Pueblo commenced this action, asserting in part that New Mexico failed to conduct compact negotiations in good faith in violation of IGRA and that individual defendants conspired under the color of state law to “deprive the federal right of the Pueblo and its members to be free of state jurisdiction over activities that occur on the Pueblo lands.” The Pueblo sought an injunction, contending that the Gaming Board’s actions were an impermissible attempt to assert jurisdiction over gaming operations on tribal lands, despite the termination of New Mexico’s jurisdiction over such activities upon the expiration of the compact. The district court entered final judgment, stayed the effects of the preliminary injunction, and issued an indicative ruling that it would vacate or dissolve the preliminary injunction on remand. The Pueblo sought to stay the district court’s judgment and restore the preliminary injunction. The district court declined to do so, but the Tenth Circuit extended a temporary injunction against the State mirroring the preliminary injunction entered by the district court. On appeal, the Pueblo argued the district court did not have jurisdiction to proceed to the merits given the interlocutory appeal of the preliminary injunction and, even if it did, it erred in concluding that IGRA did not preempt New Mexico’s regulatory action. The Tenth Circuit found the text of IGRA clearly evinced congressional intent that Class III gaming would not occur in the absence of a compact, and no such compact existed. Accordingly, conflict preemption also does not apply. For similar reasons, the Court rejected the Pueblo’s argument that the Gaming Board’s determination as to the unlawful nature of the Pueblo’s gaming activities was an improper assertion of jurisdiction preempted by IGRA. Because the Pueblo’s gaming activities are not conducted pursuant to a compact or an alternative mechanism permitted under IGRA, the Pueblo’s present gaming is unlawful under federal law, and the State’s conclusion to this effect was not an exercise of jurisdiction that IGRA preempts. View "Pueblo of Pojoaque v. New Mexico" on Justia Law

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In response to a request from the Quapaw Tribe, the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) Acting General Counsel issued a legal opinion letter stating that the Tribe’s Kansas trust land was eligible for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The State of Kansas and the Board of County Commissioners of the County of Cherokee, Kansas, filed suit, arguing that the letter was arbitrary, capricious, and erroneous as a matter of law. The district court concluded that the letter did not constitute reviewable final agency action under IGRA or the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). The Tenth Circuit affirmed: the IGRA’s text, statutory scheme, legislative history, and attendant regulations demonstrated congressional intent to preclude judicial review of legal opinion letters. Further, the Acting General Counsel’s letter does not constitute final agency action under the APA because it did not determine any rights or obligations or produced legal consequences. In short, the letter merely expresses an advisory, non-binding opinion, without any legal effect on the status quo ante. View "Kansas v. National Indian Gaming Comm'n" on Justia Law

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The State of New Mexico sued the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) to challenge its authority to promulgate the regulations found at 25 C.F.R. 291 et seq. (“Part 291”). The challenged regulations concerned the process under which Indian tribes and states negotiate compacts to allow gaming on Indian lands. Congress established in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”). The Supreme Court would later decide, however, Congress lacked the authority to make states subject to suit by Indian tribes in federal court. However, the Court left intact the bulk of IGRA, and Congress has not amended it in the intervening years. As relevant here, the Part 291 process was implicated after the Pueblo of Pojoaque tribe sued New Mexico under IGRA and the State asserted sovereign immunity. Following the dismissal of the case on sovereign-immunity grounds, the Pojoaque asked the Secretary to prescribe gaming procedures pursuant to Part 291. Before the Secretary did so, New Mexico filed the underlying suit, seeking a declaration that the Part 291 regulations were not a valid exercise of the Secretary’s authority. The Pojoaque intervened. The district court granted New Mexico’s motion for summary judgment and denied that of DOI, holding that the Part 291 regulations were invalid and barred the Secretary from taking any further action on the Pojoaque’s request for the issuance of gaming procedures under them. DOI and the Pojoaque appealed that order, challenging the State’s standing, the ripeness of the dispute, and the district court’s holding that Part 291 was an invalid exercise of the Secretary’s authority. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "New Mexico v. Dept. of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The State of Oklahoma filed suit against defendants, officials of the Kialegee Tribal Town claiming that they, along with a federally-chartered corporation related to the tribe and a related Oklahoma limited liability company, were attempting to construct and ultimately operate a class III gaming facility on non-Indian lands in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, in violation of both IGRA and a state-tribal gaming compact. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, but the district court denied the motion. The district court subsequently granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the State that prohibited defendants from constructing or operating the gaming facility on the property at issue. Defendants appealed. The Tenth Circuit concluded the State failed to state a valid claim for relief. View "Oklahoma v. Hobia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kansas Penn Gaming, LLC (KPG), a limited liability corporation formed by Penn National Gaming, Inc. (Penn National), entered into a real estate sale contract with HV Properties of Kansas, LLC (HV), pursuant to which KPG purchased from HV parcels of land in southeast Kansas for $2.5 million for the purpose of seeking to develop a lottery gaming facility on the land. KPG ultimately chose not to develop a lottery gaming facility on the land. HV thus did not receive $37.5 million of payments that it had hoped to receive from KPG under the contract. KPG filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not breach the terms of the contract. HV filed a counterclaim alleging that KPG breached the terms of the contract. HV also filed a separate action against Penn National alleging breach of Penn National’s obligation as guarantor to make the payments due under the contract between KPG and HV. The district court consolidated the two cases and granted summary judgment in favor of KPG and Penn National. Following the entry of judgment, the district court awarded attorneys' fees and expenses to KPG and Penn National. HV appealed these rulings. Upon review of the trial court record and the applicable legal authority, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's order.

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The issue before the Tenth Circuit in this case pertained to a "class-of-one" equal protection lawsuit against a county government based on its demand that a property owner correct a nuisance. Kansas Penn Gaming, LLC alleged that after it and Cherokee County became involved in litigation concerning a casino development agreement, the County health department targeted Kansas Penn for a regulatory enforcement action. In particular, the County sent Kansas Penn a notice stating that the unkempt condition of its property violated state and local nuisance laws and regulations and warning that failure to clean up the property would lead to an enforcement action. Although the County never brought an enforcement action against Kansas Penn, Kansas Penn sued the County and some of its officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983. In its complaint, Kansas Penn alleged the notice of nuisance violated its right to equal protection by arbitrarily and maliciously singling it out for selective enforcement. Because the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that Kansas Penn failed to state a claim for relief under the standard set forth by "Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly," the Court affirmed dismissal of the complaint.