The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with a Native American tribe challenging Texas gambling laws and its right to offer bingo.
The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, a tribe in Texas, argued that federal law prohibits the state from restricting the tribe’s gambling activity.
Texas only allows bingo games if they are organized by certain entities for charitable purposes.
In a 5-4 decision, the judges said Texas had no authority to ban the tribe from offering the game.
“The State recognizes that its laws do not prohibit, prevent, stop or make bingo impossible. Instead, the state admits that it permits gambling subject to fixed rules regarding when, where and how it may be conducted,” Judge Neil M. Gorsuch wrote for the court.
“From that alone, it would seem to follow that Texas laws fall on the regulatory side rather than the prohibitive side of the line – and therefore cannot be enforced on tribal lands,” he added.
Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor concurred with Judge Gorsuch.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. disagreed, arguing that Texas has strict control over gambling and that state law should apply to the tribe.
“The Court’s approach also ends up treating gambling violations more leniently than other violations of Texas law. This makes little sense, as the purpose of the provision at issue was to further restrict gambling on tribal lands,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote.
He was joined by Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. in his dissent.
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, located outside of El Paso, agreed more than 30 years ago that its gambling activities would comply with Texas law, but the tribe later asserted that federal Indian law Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 licensed its bingo activities.
During oral argument, the judges debated the difference between bingo held at an Elks Lodge, with someone calling out numbers, and bingo played on what appears to be a slot machine.
The legal battle began when Texas sought to end all illegal bingo being played by the tribe, and a lower court sided with the state.
The case is Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas.