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Supreme Court Boosts Tribal Sovereignty in Texas Gaming Dispute (1)

June 15, 2022, 2:25 PMUpdated: June 15, 2022, 9:04 PM

Texas can’t prohibit a federally recognized Indian tribe from engaging in certain gaming activities, the US Supreme Court said.

Ruling in a decades long dispute on Wednesday, the justices 5-4 backed the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribe’s argument that allowing it to run electronic machines and live-called bingo at its Speaking Rock Entertainment Center was a matter of sovereign immunity and economic necessity.

The ruling broke along non-ideological lines with both Justices Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett joining their Democratic-appointed colleagues in siding with the tribe.

Since joining the court in 2017, Gorsuch has been a reliable vote for American Indian tribes.

But little is known about Barrett’s views on tribal issues, said Dorsey & Whitney’s Ben Kappelman.

Barrett wrote the majority opinion earlier this week siding with tribes in a case involving whether prosecution in a Court of Indian Offenses counts as federal action for purposes of double jeopardy.

“Her votes this week might give Tribes reason for cautious optimism,” Kappelman said in a statement.

The dispute affects the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and another Texas tribe, but implicates other sovereignty issues as well.

The case is Ysleta del Sure Pueblo v. Texas, U.S., No. 20-493.

(Updates with comments from Dorsey & Whitney's Ben Kappelman starting in paragraph three.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com