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The Supreme Court sided Wednesday with an American Indian tribe challenging gambling laws in Texas and its right to offer bingo.

The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, a tribe in Texas, argued that federal law prohibits the state from restricting the tribe’s gaming activity. 

Texas allows bingo games to be played only if they are conducted by certain entities for charitable purposes.

In a 5-4 ruling, the justices said Texas does not have the authority to prohibit the tribe from offering the game.

“The State concedes that its laws do not forbid, prevent, effectively stop, or make bingo impossible. Instead, the State admits that it allows the game subject to fixed rules about the time, place, and manner in which it may be conducted,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote for the court.

“From this alone, it would seem to follow that Texas’s laws fall on the regulatory rather than prohibitory side of the line — and thus may not be applied on tribal lands,” he added.

Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor joined Justice Gorsuch’s opinion.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. disagreed, arguing that Texas has strict control over gambling and that the state law should apply to the tribe. 

“The Court’s approach also winds up treating gambling violations more leniently than other violations of Texas law. This makes little sense, as the whole point of the provision at issue was to further restrict gaming on the Tribe’s lands,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote.

He was joined by Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. in his dissent.

Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, located outside El Paso, agreed more than 30 years ago that its gambling activities would comply with Texas law, but the tribe has subsequently claimed that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 permits its bingo activities.

During oral arguments, the justices grappled with the difference between bingo held at an Elks Lodge, with someone calling out numbers, and bingo played on what appears to be a slot machine.

The legal battle began when Texas sought to halt any unlawful bingo played by the tribe, and a lower court sided with the state.

The case is Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas. 

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