Cayuga Nation files lawsuit against New York State regarding lottery sales on reservation

A legal battle has ensued in the state of New York!

Cayuga Nation files lawsuit against New York State regarding lottery sales on reservation

A legal battle has been issued, as the Cayuga Nation has filed a lawsuit against the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) for selling lottery tickets on its reservation in the state's Finger Lakes region.

Federal law doesn't allow it

According to the lawsuit, the Nation claims that federal law states they are the only entity authorized to regulate the conduct of gaming on its lands. This was stated in a complaint filed on April 18 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) states New York has no authority to offer gaming on the Cayuga's sovereign reservation unless it is licensed to do so by the tribe, which the lawsuit states did not give them the license to do so.

How did the state break that rule?

The Nation claims the state has deployed lottery terminals on the Cayuga reservation. These terminals dispense instant-win scratch-offs and tickets for draw games, according to the tribe.

The lawsuit also claims the NYSGC has also issued a courier service license to Jackpot Inc., a company that enables users to play the New York Lotto and other NYSGC-licensed draw games via the Jackpocket mobile app.

What makes it even more interesting is the Nation states that lottery games are defined as class III gaming, comparable to slot machines and roulette. However, the Cayuga themselves are prohibited from offering class III games on the reservation because they don't have a compact with the state.

Under IGRA, the Cayuga Nation can only offer class II gaming, like electronic bingo and poker, at their four “Lakeside Entertainment” gaming venues.

Cayuga representative Clint Halftown said in an official statement:

The Nation has robust gaming operations throughout the reservation and uses the revenue to provide life-changing government benefits to Cayuga citizens. New York State's practice of authorizing lotteries on Reservation land causes grave concern to the Nation's rights and ability to provide for Nation citizens.

State laws are trumped by the IGRA rules

Despite what state laws may or may not be in place, the rules of the IGRA trump them. The Cayuga Nation has already established in a federal court that:

IGRA preempts all state and local legislation and regulation relating to gambling conducted on “Indian lands,” as defined in that statute.

That ruling took place in July 2021, and it put an end to local attempts to thwart the tribe's gaming operations.

This new lawsuit by the Nation came after their lawyers reportedly wrote to NYSGC and Jackpocket, offering to talk about the lottery issue. However, they received no response from either party.

The lawsuit is seeking a declaratory judgment that the state is violating IGRA and an injunction to stop lottery terminals and Jackpocket's operations on its lands.

Halftown said:

The Cayuga Nation has a responsibility to enforce its federally approved gaming ordinance and stop all unlawful gaming within the reservation, whether by the state or private individuals. The Cayuga Nation Council will not ignore the State's gaming, especially the expansion to mobile gaming and the license to Jackpocket Inc.

Enjoy playing the Lottery, and please remember to play responsibly.


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