Federal Gaming Law

Indian Gaming Regulatory Act

In light of the Cabazon Supreme Court decision, a panic followed in the U.S. Congress to restrict tribal government gaming. States and commercial gaming interests outside of California carried considerable weight in influencing the language of the law enacted in 1988 as The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). IGRA separated gaming into three classes: Class I, traditional Indian social gaming; Class II, bingo, similar games and card games lawful in the state; and Class III, all other forms of gaming. IGRA essentially affirmed federal jurisdiction over Indian tribes, but in a compromise strongly opposed by the tribes, it gave limited jurisdiction for joint regulation of tribal government gaming to the states in the case of Class III games. This was accomplished through a treaty/compacting process involving negotiation, mediation and litigation. The states, including California, pushed for and agreed to this limited jurisdiction.

Not only does federal law govern gaming regulation, it also restricts the use of tribal gaming revenues to specific functions.

As mandated by Section 11 (a)(2)(B) of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, net revenues from tribal government gaming may be used only to:

  • Fund tribal government operations or programs;
  • Provide for the general welfare of the Native American tribe and its members(Indian governmental services and programs);
  • Promote tribal economic development;
  • Donate to charitable causes; and
  • Help fund operations of local governments and mitigate impacts.

There is no question that tribal government gaming has begun to accomplish many congressional objectives beneficial to gaming tribes. Unemployment has been drastically reduced and welfare eliminated on gaming reservations, such as those in San Diego County. Tribal governments have begun to raise the revenues they have lacked for decades to fund basic governmental services, such as police, fire, health care, education, and other government-provided programs that non-Indians take for granted.

The Viejas Band strives to build enduring economic security for our people. Plus, we are deeply committed to sharing with the community, not only in San Diego, but also with our Kumeyaay brothers and sisters in Baja Norte and our neighbors across the border.

Tribal Gaming Compliance With Federal Laws

Because tribal governments have a constitutionally based government-to-government relationship with the U.S. government, a host of federal laws are also applicable to tribal government gaming. In California, pursuant to a federal statute known as Public Law 280, all criminal laws of the state are enforceable on Indian reservations. However, gaming itself is considered a regulatory, civil issue, under the jurisdiction of several federal enforcement agencies: Internal Revenue Service, Justice Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Treasury Department, as well as the NIGC.

In addition, tribal governments are required to comply with:

  • Fed-OSHA, occupational health and safety laws and regulations, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
  • Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, Wild Life Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and other environmental laws and regulations administered by the U.S. Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Federal construction, food handling, safety and related laws and regulations administered by various federal departments.
  • The Internal Revenue Code and regulations administered by the Internal Revenue Service, including casino employee payroll deductions and reporting of large winnings.
  • The Bank Secrecy Act and other Treasury Department rules and regulations to prevent money laundering and related criminal acts.
  • Applicable federal criminal statutes administered by the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • Regulations, pursuant to federal law, governing the operation of tribal governments and use of net tribal government gaming revenues as administered by the Interior Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the NIGC.

Tribal-State Gaming Compact

Click here to view the Compact.