The Alaska Native village of Eklutna has filed a lawsuit against the US Interior Department (DOI) for preventing them from building a gambling hall 20 miles north of Anchorage.
For years, the Eklutna tribe has sought to build an electronic bingo hall in their native land, but the DOI has denied them permission to do so. According to DOI, the tribe does not have authority over the land in question and therefore has no right to establish a gaming facility in it. However, the tribe sued the DOI in October, challenging their decision in a DC court.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) allows the Native Americans to open a class II gaming facility in their land provided that the state allows such operations elsewhere. Alaska, however, does not have a casino or lottery, but the Metlakatla Indian Community operates an electronic bingo hall and other charitable bingo. So why exclude Eklutna?
‘Threat to State Interests’
Alaska’s Assistant Attorney General Lael Harrison wrote to the US District Court of Columbia that the Eklutna gaming establishment would interfere with the state sovereign jurisdiction, regulatory, and taxing authority. Harrison retaliated that a ruling that will nullify DOI’s decision will open the door to the establishment of other gaming properties across Alaska.
“And this case implicates more than just IGRA. It is about the territorial jurisdiction of Alaska tribes in General,” she added.
Corporations, Not Sovereign Nations
Another peculiar thing about Alaskan tribes is that their legal status is different from the rest of the tribes in the US. According to Casino.org, the federal Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which predates IGRA by 17 years, distributes 44 million acres lands among the tribes. However, the act characterized the tribes as private corporations rather than sovereign nations with sovereign powers.
However, the Metlakatla tribe didn’t sign the act, thus enabling them to be the sole Alaskan tribal gaming operator.