The 1987 ruling of the Supreme Court in California v Cabazon Band of Mission Indians stated that tribes could operate facilities without any state regulation, as they were sovereign political entities. No federal laws regarding gaming existed at this time.
Shortly after the Cabazon ruling, profitable gaming, including high stakes bingo began to be offered by various tribes across the country. The states, unable to regulate Indian gaming, began lobbying the federal government to grant them the ability to do so. In 1988 the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was passed into law. In essence, different types of gaming fall into different categories, and casino-style gaming falls into Class III. Tribes have the authority to regulate Class I and Class II games, but tribal authority to offer Class III gaming is restricted and requires, among other things, a tribal-state compact to be negotiated.
In an effort to provide jobs and reverse the poverty that had long plagued the Coeur d’Alene people, in 1989 tribal member David Matheson started conducting market analyses and feasibility studies for a casino to be built on the reservation. The plan, with approval of the state, was to build a 100,000 square-foot casino and offer both bingo and casino-style gaming.
In April of 1992, per IGRA, the Coeur d’Alene tribe started negotiations with the State of Idaho for a Class III compact. Two other Idaho tribes, during the months of June and July, also applied for Class III gaming compacts. At this point in time, Idaho did not specifically prohibit any form of casino-style gaming.
In the summer of 1992, Governor Andrus called a special legislative session in an apparent attempt to block casino-style gaming on the Indian reservations of Idaho. In response, Ernest L. Stensgar, Tribal Chairman, indicated the possibility of a lawsuit. It was suggested that perhaps, outside interests were attempting to dictate policy in Idaho, such as the Mormon Church in neighboring Utah, and Nevada gaming interests, especially in the small towns of Winnemucca and Jackpot, which are both close to Idaho’s southern border. Stensgar stated “At cards, changing the rules while the game is in progress is called cheating.”
The amendment that had been presented in the special summer session was passed in November 1992. The Idaho Constitution, as amended, now allowed bingo, pari-mutuel betting, a state lottery, and charitable raffle games; most importantly, it specifically prohibited any form of casino gaming, and included criminal penalties for any violators.
The state now wanted to be able to negotiate the existing compact requests, which had been made earlier in the year, based on the law after the November 1992 amendment. The tribes wanted negotiations to be based on Idaho law as it stood before the November 1992 amendment. At an impasse, the court was asked to make a determination based on the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. It was determined that IGRA did not prevent...