legal cases in the US regarding gambling

The gambling landscape in the United States continues to shift. Questions arise regarding tribal gamingVegas casino online real money gambling, sports betting laws, states’ jurisdictions and more. The result is that in many cases, the law needs to be clarified which is resulting in an over-abundance of gambling cases going to the courts.

Some recent court cases include:

Foundations of Tribal Law

US law regarding tribal casinos is considered foundational in the American legal system. The law resulted from a 1986 Supreme Court case in which SCOTUS ruled that native reservations are not controlled by state law and therefore, whatever happens on the reservations – including gambling activities –- is to be regulated exclusively by the federal government.

By removing state government from the equation SCOTUS sent a message that tribal sovereignty must be upheld. That ruling opened the door to many tribes to open casinos on their lands. In 1988 Congress  passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) which gave tribes the right to create casino-like halls on their native lands in states in which gambling was legal.  While the gaming itself was regulated by the federal government, each tribe was obligated to negotiate a “compact” with the state government in which it would be operating.

The National Indian Gaming Commission is responsible for regulating native gaming including budget approval, fees, subpoenas, civil fines, review of contracts and overseeing of permanent orders.

Over the years the courts have had to rule on multiple issues relating to native gaming including issues regarding the scope of states’ authority over the casinos on native lands, questions about when a tribe was “recognized” as such by the federal government for the purposes of establishing a casino, the introduction of online gambling and sports betting and clashes between native and commercial casinos.

Now, the subject of native gaming has returned to the Supreme Court with Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo v. Texas which relates to two Texas tribes’ ability to operate gaming enterprises. The court is being asked to decide whether restrictions that a state law places on tribes’ gaming activities in the state is applicable to gambling that takes place on native lands.

In the case of Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo v. Texas, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether Texas can regulate gaming activities on tribal lands. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is the tribe in question which is arguing that, based on the earlier  Cabazon Band ruling, it should be allowed to operate games such as bingo which are not prohibited by state law. Texas is maintaining that the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 is the operative legislation that governs such non-prohibited games on Indian lands and therefore, all gaming activities on native lands are subject to Texas law.

Oral arguments were heard in the case in February and a ruling is expected to be handed down in the coming months.


Fantasy Sports Constitutionality

A New York Court of Appeals has affirmed the constitutionality of interactive fantasy sports law by implementing a constitutional standard for judging games of chance.  The question of whether fantasy sports could be considered a game of luck or skill has been at the root of the issue of whether or not betting on fantasy sports is considered to be gambling.


Now, the New York Court of Appeals has ruled that, based on Article 14 of the Racing, Pari-Mutual Wagering and Breeding Law (“Article 14”), interactive fantasy sports (“IFS”) contests in New York are constitutional.  According to the court, under the state constitution,  the “dominant factor test”  us the constitutional standard for judging games of chance. Therefore, paying an entry fee for an opportunity to compete for a prize is not an illegal wager in the contest of fantasy sports and New York’s IFS law that legalized fantasy sports will stand.

The court held that fantasy sports is considered a game in which skill predominates over chance. A skill-based competition in which a player can influence the outcome does not constitute gambling under the NY State Constitution. In fantasy sports, the court said, participants skillfully compose and manage a virtual roster which allows them to collect more fantasy points than the rosters of other participating players.  This decision finally puts to rest the question of whether fantasy sports are considered legal under New York law.

California Sports Betting Measure

Last month the California Supreme Court refused to block a ballot referendum that would expand gambling at tribal casinos. According to the measure, sponsored by multiple California native tribes, in-person betting on roulette, dice and sports would be allowed at tribal casinos but not elsewhere.

The challenge was mounted by two California card rooms, the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood (Los Angeles County) and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova (Sacramento County), which are fighting the effort to expand tribal gaming while limiting initiatives by non-tribal gaming bodies. The ballot measure has already qualified for the ballot after having gained 1.5 million signatures.

The card rooms contend that, if passed, the new law would violate the state constitution because it covers multiple types of games – sports betting, dice games and roulette. Additionally, the card rooms suit declares, by being allowing the tribes to sue other operators of gambling activities, the rights of the card rooms would be violated.

The court, however, agreed unanimously to deny a hearing to the cardrooms’ lawsuit and leave the ballot measure in place. The measure will now be voted on in the upcoming November 2022 election.

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