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Kalispel Tribe of Indians v. U.S. Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20099
Nos. 19-35808, (9th Cir., 06/01/2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for DOI and a Native American tribe in a lawsuit brought by a nearby tribe challenging DOI's decision that the former tribe's proposed casino on newly acquired off-reservation land would not be detrimental to the surrounding community. The plaintiff tribe argued the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) precluded the secretary of DOI from authorizing a new off-reservation gaming operation where additional gaming would cause any detriment to a nearby tribe, regardless of the net impact to the surrounding community. The court found the IGRA required the secretary to weigh the various interests within the surrounding community when deciding whether additional off-reservation gaming would be detrimental to the community, but that a showing that such gaming would be detrimental to some community members, including an Indian tribe, did not dictate the outcome of the secretary's two-step determination. The tribe also argued the secretary's decision was ultra vires and arbitrary and capricious because it did not properly evaluate the detriment the nearby tribe would suffer if the other tribe was allowed to move forward with its casino. The court agreed with the plaintiff tribe that lost gaming revenue, discontinued or diminished per capita expense payments to its members, and a smaller tribal governmental budget were real and cognizable detriments, but found the administrative record did not support the tribe's contention that the secretary failed to consider such impacts in making the two-step determination. It therefore affirmed summary judgment for DOI and the tribe proposing the new casino.