9th Circuit Rules for Southern California Casino

A court of appeals has ruled that the National Indian Gaming Commission is not required to complete an environmental impact statement before granting permission for California’s Jamul Indian Village to open its Hollywood Casino Jamul (l.) in San Diego County.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled for the National Indian Gaming Commission and against opponents on the question of whether the NIGC is required to wait for an environmental impact statement before allowing the Jamul Indian Village in San Diego County, California to open its casino. The opening is expected sometime this summer.

The three-story Hollywood Casino Jamul will have more than 1,700 slot machines, 50 gaming tables, dining, bars and lounges, plus parking for 1,800 vehicle.

Opponents of the casino, who have challenged it in many venues, were hoping to catch it up with a delay over the EIR. However, a three-judge panel of the appeals court concurred with a lower court in the case of Jamul Action Committee v. Jonodev Chaudhur (NIGC chairman) that the NIGC is not required to have the environmental impact statement (EIS) completed before approving the gaming ordinance for the tribe because under federal law the NIGC only has 90 days to give that approval, while an EIS can take years to conduct.

To force the NIGC to complete the EIS would create an “irreconcilable conflict” with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) wrote the panel in a 16 page decision.

“There is no question that it would be impossible for NIGC to prepare an EIS in the ninety days it has to approve a gaming ordinance,” said the decision.

Although the tribe and Penn National Gaming were not identified in the lawsuit, the suit is all about stopping them from going forward.

In March the NIGC released a Notice of Availability of a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Jamul Indian Village (JIV) Proposed Gaming Management Agreement on the Federal Register. The statement indicates that the tribe can operate the casino itself using consultants while the NIGC decides whether to approve the casino management agreement with Penn National Gaming.

The NIGC’s decision on the gaming management agreement with Penn is still pending.