Idle Thoughts about Bingo. . .

Yesterday, Justice Kagan asked about what bingo is:

There seems to be dispute whether this type of bingo by machine is the same as the bingo we know, people in a room calling out numbers.

p. 18, line 25 — p. 19, lines 1-3

In a colloquy with the tribe’s counsel, the Chief Justice also wondered aloud:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What would — what — what would you say it looks like?
MR. MARTIN: I would say it looks like an electronic bingo machine that has a bingo —
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What makes it look like a bingo machine?
(Laughter.)
MR. MARTIN: Well, there’s a — let me
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: There’s a name on it that says bingo?
MR. MARTIN: Well, there’s actually a card and you can switch the cards by pushing a button to change the cards that you’re playing. Now, are there reels and lights that look — that would characterize —
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Are there people —
MR. MARTIN: — people would characterize it — yes.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: — calling out numbers and — people, somebody saying, you know, B-12 or —
MR. MARTIN: There — there in fact is part of our operations, Your Honor. My tribe’s operations is live-called bingo and it’s also one of the things the State of Texas —
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: But that’s something different than the slot — slot machine bingo, right?
MR. MARTIN: It is different than the electronic machines, Your Honor, but they’ve complained about all of it.

p. 22, lines 4-25 — p. 23, lines 1-11
Not Indian bingo. . .

The law of these bingo slot machines has effectively been settled for nearly 20 years after the Supreme Court denied cert in a pair of petitions from the United States on this question (which later led to regulations that effectively codified the rulings from the courts below that the government lost):

What is Class II bingo, a Supreme Court Justice might ask? Well, the General Counsel for the National Indian Gaming Commission is there to offer answers:

Here are all of the game classification opinions.

Fletcher Paper on the Seminole Tribe and the Origins of Indian Gaming

At the invitation of Alex Pearl and the FIU Law Review to write a symposium piece on Florida Indian history and law, a challenge for me since I know very little about it, I came up with “The Seminole Tribe and the Origins of Indian Gaming.” Assuming the law review finds it publishable, it will appear in the FIU Law Review alongside the work of luminaries like Siegfriend Weissner and Sarah Krakoff.

Here is the abstract:

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has played perhaps the most important role in the origins and development of Indian gaming in the United States of any single tribe. The tribe opened the first tribally owned high stakes bingo hall in 1979. The tribe in 1981 was involved in one of the earliest lower court decisions forming the basis of the legal theory excluding most states from the regulation of high stakes bingo, a theory that Congress largely codified in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) years later. The tribe was a party to the Supreme Court decision in 1996 that radically altered the bargaining power between tribes and states over the negotiation and regulation of casino-style gaming under IGRA. And more recently, the tribe has been a leading participant in negotiations and litigation over the regulatory landscape of Indian gaming after the 1996 decision. The Tribe is one of the most successful Indian gaming tribes in the nation.

This paper traces that history, but also offers thoughts on how the culture and traditional governance structures of the Seminole Tribe played a part in its leadership role in the arena of Indian gaming.