Attorney General Paxton joined a Montana-led comment letter sent to the Department of the Interior requesting that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”) extend the public comment period for new rules that would have a sweeping impact on state gambling laws.  

The federal governance of tribal casino gambling has long balanced federal, state, and tribal interests. But the new rules undermine this—primarily by undercutting state authority. This is done in several ways. First, the new regulations would force a state that “allows any form of class III gaming” to now negotiate with tribes to allow “all forms of class III gambling,” even if the games are banned by state law. For example, a state that allowed a lottery but not sports betting, blackjack, or roulette would now be compelled to offer both the former and the latter games within its borders.  

Additionally, while tribal gaming has mainly been restricted to Indian lands, the proposed rules could effectively allow tribes to offer statewide remote wagering. This threatens to erode states’ long-standing authority to regulate remote wagering.  

In a reversal of BIA policy, the rules also allow tribal trust lands, upon which gaming could take place, to be acquired by tribes regardless of the actual distance from the tribe’s reservation boundaries. This could allow tribes to acquire trust lands practically anywhere in the country.  

To allow all interested parties an opportunity to fully express these concerns, the letter requests a 90-day extension to the standard comment period. 

The letter states: “We are concerned that the Proposed Regulations would bypass the legislative process and undercut the ability of Attorneys General to enforce state gaming laws. When Congress enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (‘IGRA’), it recognized that states have public policy, safety, and economic interests related to class III gaming offered on Indian lands. Those state interests persist, yet the Proposed Regulations would expand the scope of authorized tribal casino gaming through unilateral executive branch action, without any debate in Congress or the state legislatures.” 

To read the full letter, click here.