California v Cabazon Band of Mission Indians 480 US 202 1987: State laws may be applied to tribal Indians on their reservations if Congress has expressly so provided

The bands pursuant to an ordinance approved of by the Secretary of the Interior, conducts bingo games on its reservation. The Cabazon band also opened a card club. The games are open to the public and are played predominantly by non-Indians. The profits are the sole source of income for the tribe. The State of California seeks to apply Cal.Penal Code Ann. State laws may be applied to tribal Indians on their reservations if Congress has expressly so provided, has it has here. As a grant of State civil regulatory power over Indian reservations may result in the destruction of tribal institutions and values it must be determined whether exercised power falls within the scope of the Congressional provision. The cases have not established an inflexible per se rule precluding state jurisdiction over tribes in the absence of express congressional consent. Under certain circumstances a state may validly assert authority over the activities of non-members on a reservation and in exceptional circumstances may assert jurisdiction over the on-reservation activities of tribal members. Decision in this case turns on whether state authority is pre-empted by the operation of federal law; and state jurisdiction is pre-empted if it interferes or is incompatible with federal and tribal interests reflected in federal law, unless the state interests at stake are sufficient to justify the assertion of state authority. The inquiry is to proceed in the light of traditional notions of Indian sovereignty and the congressional goal of Indian self-government, including the overriding goal of encouraging tribal self-sufficiency and economic development. The sole interest asserted by the State to justify the imposition of its bingo laws is preventing the infiltration of the tribal games by organized crime. The state interest does not justify state regulation in the light of the compelling federal and tribal interests. State regulation would impermissibly infringe on tribal government.

Eklund: When losing is winning…, 20 Hamline L. Rev. 125, *160

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