Tenth Circuit upholds New Mexico’s challenge to DOI Indian gaming regulations

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires states to negotiate in good faith with Indian tribes who seek to establish a gaming compact with the state, and sets forth procedures for the negotiation process, including mediation.

Ultimately, if the parties are unable to agree, the Act provides that the Secretary of the Interior “shall prescribe, in consultation with the Indian tribe, procedures … consistent with the proposed compact selected by the mediator … under which Class III gaming may be conducted.” In response to this language, the Department of the Interior enacted regulations at 25 C.F.R. Part 291.

As part of the ongoing dispute between the State of New Mexico and the Pueblo of Pojoaque over tribal gambling, the State sued the Department of the Interior, arguing that the Part 291 regulations were beyond its authority. The District Court agreed with the State.

On Friday, the Tenth Circuit issued its opinion in State of New Mexico v. DOI, affirming the trial court. The opinion, by Judge Holmes, holds that the State had standing, the dispute is ripe and justiciable, and that the Part 291 regulations exceeded the Department’s statutory authority.

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