September 29, 1997
OLYMPIA - A federal judge has clarified what casino games Indian tribes and the state can negotiate under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle of Spokane accepted the state's argument that since Washington law expressly prohibits slot machines and other forms of machine gaming, they are not permitted under IGRA.
The act looks to Washington law to define how the state must negotiate with tribes over gaming on Indian reservations. Excluding slot machines, the judge did find there were other potential gambling devices that would be negotiable under state law.
"We are very pleased to have these issues resolved and that all parties know which games and gaming devices are to be included in, or excluded from, compacts negotiated by the state and tribes," said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jim Pharris. "The lawsuit did a great deal to clarify relationships between the state and Indian tribes."
For several years there has been a debate between Indian tribes and the state over whether tribes may offer slot machines and other similar gaming devices. The state and the Indian tribes agreed to take the issue to federal court in what is called a "friendly lawsuit," to resolve the debate and define what types of gaming can be negotiated.