Cayuga Nation Sues New York State Over Lottery Sales on Reservation

The Cayuga Nation is suing the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) for selling lottery tickets on its reservation in the state’s Finger Lakes region.

New York State is violating federal law by deploying self-service kiosks, such as the one pictured above, on Cayuga Nation lands, according to a lawsuit filed by the tribe Thursday. (Image: News Agency Blog)

The Nation asserts that by federal law it is the only entity authorized to regulate the conduct of gaming on its lands. That’s in a complaint filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

Under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the state has no authority to offer gaming on the Cayuga’s sovereign reservation unless it is licensed to do so by the tribe, the lawsuit states.

Jackpocket App

Yet the state has deployed lottery terminals on the Cayuga reservation that dispense instant-win scratch-offs and tickets for draw games, according to the tribe. It 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.

Moreover, the Nation notes that lottery games are defined as class III gaming, akin to slot machines and roulette. The Cayuga themselves are prohibited from offering class III games on the reservation because they do not have a compact with the state.

Under IGRA, they can only offer class II gaming, such as electronic bingo and poker, at their four “Lakeside Entertainment” gaming venues.

The Nation has robust gaming operations throughout the reservation and uses the revenue to provide life-changing government benefits to Cayuga citizens,” said Cayuga representative Clint Halftown in an official statement. “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.”

IGRA Trumps State Law

The 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 of July 2021 put paid to local attempts to thwart the tribe’s gaming operations.

The new lawsuit came after the Nation’s lawyers wrote to NYSGC and Jackpocket offering to discuss the lottery issue but received no response. The suit seeks declaratory judgment that the state is violating IGRA and an injunction to halt lottery terminals and Jackpocket’s operations on its lands.

“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,” Halftown said. “The Cayuga Nation Council will not ignore the State’s gaming, especially the expansion to mobile gaming and the license to Jackpocket Inc.”

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