Seminole Tribe v. Florida

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SEMINOLE TRIBE V. FLORIDA 517 U.S. 44. In an attempt to overcome decades of chronic poverty and underemployment, American Indian communities began in the 1970s to exert forms of economic independence. Since Indian reservations are not subject to state and municipal jurisdictions, including state taxes and gaming prohibitions, many reservation communities established bingo and casino gaming facilities, often in the face of intense resistance by state and local governments. In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which established the legal, or statutory, foundations for Indian gaming, including provisions for negotiated "compacts" between state and Indian governments. While many Indian casinos quickly attracted unprecedented capital, others languished. Increasingly, state and local governments resisted attempts by Indian nations to exert their economic sovereignty. In Florida, the state government refused the Seminoles' attempts to negotiate the required compacts as outlined by the IGRA. In 1991, the Seminoles sued the state of Florida for not complying with the IGRA. Reversing lower court rulings that denied the state's motion to dismiss, the Supreme Court ruled in Seminole Tribe v. Florida that the IGRA did not apply to "a State that does not consent to be sued." States, the court maintained, remained immune to prosecution under the IGRA. The ruling dealt a severe blow to Indian legal and economic sovereignty and reinforced some of the limited powers of state governments over Indian affairs.


Mason, W. Dale. Indian Gaming: Tribal Sovereignty and American Politics. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.


See alsoIndian Reservations .