May 29, 2014—On May 27, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community et al., one of the most significant Indian law cases in recent years. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity by barring the State of Michigan’s lawsuit against the Bay Mills Indian Community for opening a casino outside of Indian lands.
In her concurring opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited the work of Alan Meister, Principal Economist and Indian gaming expert at Nathan Associates. Rebutting a dissenting opinion’s contention that Tribes have “emerged as particularly ‘substantial and successful’ commercial actors," Justice Sotomayor referred to Dr. Meister’s Indian Gaming Industry Report to show that the success of Indian gaming has not been uniform across tribes. Specifically, she cited data on the percentage of Native American tribes that operate gaming facilities (less than 50 percent) and the high percentage of gaming revenue that is generated by a small number of gaming facilities (approximately 70 percent of gaming revenue is generated by less than 20 percent of facilities).
Discussion of the case is available at Turtle Talk, the blog for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law. The Court’s decision can be found at the Supreme Court’s website.
Click here for information on Dr. Meister’s Indian Gaming Industry Report.