California v. Cabazon Band: A Quarter-Century of Complex, Litigious Self-Determination

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The Supreme Court’s decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202 (1987), may be the most momentous decision in federal Indian law in the last 50 years. The decision provided a federal common law basis for Indian tribes to engage in high stakes bingo and other gaming activities without state regulation, even in so-called Public Law 280 states like California that have criminal jurisdiction inside of Indian country. Cabazon Band provoked Congress to finally codify a regulatory scheme for Indian gaming, including an enactment that authorized under specific conditions Vegas-style casino gaming, in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, 25 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq. Indian gaming, as a direct result of Cabazon Band, now has a market greater than $26 billion a year nationally.


Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty.