Shingle Springs Band prevails in long-running gaming contract dispute


A decade-old dispute between the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians and a former gaming partner is finally over thanks to the nation's highest court.

Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition in Sharp Image Gaming, Inc. v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. The action, which came in an order list during an otherwise bad news day for Indian Country, means a state court ruling in favor of the tribe will stand.

The September 2017 decision from the California Court of Appeal for the Third District represented a big victory because it reversed a $30 million judgement against the tribe. The money was claimed by Sharp Image Gaming, which had helped open a casino on the reservation in the mid-1990s.

But since the agreements between the tribe and the firm were never approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission, a federal agency, they cannot be enforced, the court said in the ruling.

“I always believed the tribe was in the right,” then-chairman Nicholas Fonseca said at the time. Had the court not ruled in the tribe's favor, the judgement would have grown, with interest, to about $49 million.

According to Sharp Image Gaming's lawsuit, the firm loaned the tribe money and helped finance a casino that debuted in late 1996. The facility closed just eight days later amid disputes with local officials and with the NIGC, according to a subsequent decision from the federal agency.

Still, the relationship came back to haunt the tribe after it found a new partner and opened the Red Hawk Casino in December 2008. Sharp Image argued that it was owed millions of dollars as well as a share of the new facility's revenues ...