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The Cayuga Nation filed a lawsuit in federal district court on Thursday against New York state’s  gaming commission, its chairman, and Jackpocket Inc., a New York City-based mobile gaming company. 

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleges violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by operating the state lottery and the Jackpocket app within the Nation's reservation. The New York State Gaming Commission and its chair, Brian O’Dwyer, are named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with Jackpocket.   

The tribe argues that IGRA grants them exclusive rights to regulate gaming activities on the reservation. The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) approved the Cayuga Nation's gaming ordinance in 2003, and its operations have grown to include four Class II gaming casinos with electronic bingo and other related gaming.  

The state’s licensing of lottery terminals and the Jackpocket app within the reservation undermines the Cayuga Nation’s authority, the lawsuit alleges. As well, under IGRA, any-state conducted gaming on tribal land requires an agreement with the tribe and ensures that at least 60% of net revenue goes to the tribe. In a statement, Cayuga Nation claims the state failed to meet these requirements and hasn’t compensated the tribe for past lottery sales within the reservation.      

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In the lawsuit, the tribe is asking for a court declaration that the defendants are violating IGRA and is seeking an injunction to stop the operation of lottery vending machines and the Jackpocket app within the reservation.

Cayuga Nation has its own “robust gaming operations” that produce revenue to provide life-changing benefits to tribal citizens, according to Clint Halftown, a member of the tribe’s governing council. The state’s practice of authorizing lotteries on reservation land “causes grave concern to the Nation’s rights and ability to provide for Nation citizens,” he said.  

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

In the statement, the tribe notes that its attorneys sent correspondence in the fall of 2023 and winter 2024 in an attempt to discuss the issues with the New York State Gaming Commission and Jackpocket. After receiving no response, the Cayuga Nation Council directed the filing of this lawsuit. 

Tribal Business News reached out to the New York State Gaming Commission and Jackpocket Inc., but has not heard back from them as this story went live.