(CN) – The federal government should review its decision allowing the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska to permit gambling on its land in Carter Lake, the 8th Circuit ruled.
In a 2-1 decision, the federal appeals court in St. Louis said it was not clear if an agreement between the tribe and Iowa barred gaming on a five-acre parcel in Carter Lake.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs took the land into trust in early 2003 after the tribe said it would only use the land to provide health services.
The National Indian Gaming Commission found that the Carter Lake land was eligible for gambling in late 2008, after the tribe said it qualified for a “restored lands” exception. The commission determined that, although the tribe agreed not to use the land for gaming, its request was valid under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
A federal judge reversed the commission’s decision.
Writing for the three-judge appellate panel, Judge Lavenski Smith said the lower court’s reversal was improper, because there were unresolved issues arising from language used in a “corrected notice” of the agreement.
“The district court found that the record as a whole demonstrated that counsel for all parties — the State of Iowa, the Tribe, and the Department of Interior — agreed that no gaming would occur on the Carter Lake land,” Smith wrote.
“However, whether the corrected notice is binding upon the tribes was neither raised by the parties nor discussed by the National Indian Gaming Commission or the district court. We consider the record inadequate to make a conclusive determination as to the corrected notice’s validity as an agreement and its legal effect.”
Dissenting Judge Charles Kornmann said the lower court’s decision should have been upheld.
“I do not agree that we should give the federal government in this case yet another chance to ‘get it right,'” he wrote. “The government has had quite enough chances to do that.”