Article  |  Volume 2

When the Chips are Down: Do Indian Tribes with Insolvent Gaming Operations Have the Ability to File for Bankruptcy Under the Federal Bankruptcy Code?

by Corina Rocha Pandeli

Indian gaming has become increasingly popular in the United States, with casino and resort facilities on federally recognized Indian land rivaling the likes of Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos. Since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (“IGRA”), gaming activities on Indian reservations across the country have skyrocketed, providing a substantive source of revenue to once economically downtrodden tribes. The IGRA places Indian tribes involved in gaming operations in a unique position because it affords them federal protection and oversight with respect to gaming operations, whereas state law regulates private gaming operations. In a relatively short amount of time, Indian gaming has become extremely lucrative for many Native American tribes, and tribes without gaming activities have scrambled to reap these benefits by developing and expanding casinos on their own reservations.

This Note will first give an overview of Indian sovereignty and its relationship to the federal government of the United States. Part II will examine the Indian Gaming Regulation Act, which provides Indian tribes great latitude in developing gaming activities on their reservations. Part III will examine the historical development of bankruptcy in the United States and how the Bankruptcy Code in its current form has come to be developed. Finally, Part IV will analyze the possibilities of an Indian tribe filing for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code. This Note concludes that because the Bankruptcy Code does not currently provide a basis for Indian tribes to file bankruptcy, either in terms of eligibility or type of bankruptcy relief, it is unlikely that tribes may file for bankruptcy under current federal law.

2 UNLV Gaming L.J. 255 (2011)