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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act

Governments: State & Territorial Governments: Gaming & Lotteries

Criminal Law & Procedure: Criminal Offenses :Miscellaneous Offenses: Gambling

After several federal courts ruled that state bingo laws were regulatory laws that could not be enforced against Native American tribes, Congress began looking at legislation that would satisfy the interests of law enforcement agencies and that would help to alleviate the economic problems of the Native American tribes by raising revenue through bingo and gaming. As a result, Congress enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988.

The IGRA contains both regulatory provisions and criminal provisions. The IGRA incorporates all state gaming laws into federal law. The IGRA gives the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over gaming on a Native American reservation.

The IGRA divides gaming into three classes. Class I gaming involves social or traditional gaming that is played in connection with tribal ceremonies or celebration. Examples of Class I gaming include poker games at private homes or betting on horses at a tribe’s annual celebration. Class I gaming is regulated solely by the tribes.

Class II gaming includes bingo and lottery games. Class II gaming may also include pull tabs, punch boards, and other games that are similar to bingo as long as they are played at the same location as bingo. Class II gaming may be conducted under tribal regulations in accordance with tribal ordinances that have been approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission, which Commission also has oversight responsibility for Class II gaming. States cannot regulate Class II gaming.

Class III gaming includes all other forms of gambling, such as slot machines, video machines, electronic games of chance, and pari-mutuel wagering. Class III gaming may be conducted by a Native American tribe if the tribe has adopted an ordinance that has been accepted by the National Indian Gaming Commission and if the tribe has negotiated a compact with the state, which compact is approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction to enforce the regulatory and criminal provisions of the IGRA. Gaming on a Native American reservation that violates either tribal law, state law, or the IGRA is a federal offense.

The IGRA includes provisions for theft and embezzlement offenses. A person who steals $1,000 or less from a gaming operation is subject to a maximum sentence of one year in prison, to a fine of up to $100,000, or both. If the person steals more than $1,000, he or she may be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison, to a fine of up to $250,000, or both. If the person is an officer, an employee, or a licensee of the gaming operation, the punishment for embezzling less than $1,000 is a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. If the person embezzles more than $1,000, he or she may be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison, to a fine of $1,000,000, or both.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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