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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Cabazon Band of Mission Indians et al.
California et al.
(Supervising Deputy Attorney General of California, on behalf of the appellants)
(on behalf of the appellees)
Facts of the Case 

Two federally recognized Indian Tribes had reservation land within Riverside County, California where they conducted bingo and card games open to non- Indians. The gambling industry provided employment to many Indians on the reservation, and most clients were non-Indians. The State of California wanted to apply state gambling laws to reservation gaming and Riverside County wanted to apply local ordinances. Together, these laws would ban the card games and put charitable organizations in charge of bingo games. The Tribes claimed that the imposition of gambling laws by the state government violated their sovereignty. They brought suit against the state of California and Riverside County in federal district court. The district court ruled that neither the state nor the county had the authority to regulate gambling on reservation land. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed.


Do state and local governments have the authority to regulate gambling conducted on Indian reservation land?

Decision: 6 votes for Cabazon Band Of Mission Indians, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets, National Firearms, Organized Crime Control, Comprehensive Crime Control, or Gun Control Acts, except for RICO (q.v.) portion

No. Justice Byron R. White delivered the opinion for a 6-3 court. State laws require the consent of Congress in order to apply to Indian reservations. While the federal government consented to states enforcing criminal laws on reservation land, gambling regulations are types of civil law and therefore not enforceable. The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 did not grant states the authority to regulate gambling either. Although the Act incorporated certain state gambling laws into federal laws regulating gambling on reservations, this did not grant states authority to enforce the new federal laws on reservations. Absent explicit permission for regulation, states can only enforce laws on reservations if their interests in regulation outweigh the interests of the federal government and tribal authorities. In this case, gambling provided revenue critical to the economic self-sufficiency of the reservation. Accordingly, the federal government's interest to ensure Indian self-government outweighed state concerns about organized crime developing because of unregulated reservation gaming.

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CALIFORNIA v. CABAZON BAND OF MISSION INDIANS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 29 August 2015. <>.
CALIFORNIA v. CABAZON BAND OF MISSION INDIANS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 29, 2015).
"CALIFORNIA v. CABAZON BAND OF MISSION INDIANS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 29, 2015,