Judge affirms preliminary injunction against Indian casinos

Tuesday, June 25th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A federal judge has ruled that Oklahoma Indian tribes will be able to continue offering a game at their casinos without the threat of fine or closure until a lawsuit over the game's legality is resolved.

U.S. District Judge James H. Payne on Monday affirmed a preliminary injunction issued last week by Magistrate Sam A. Joyner.

The injunction Joyner recommended will remain in full force until the court has ruled upon objections over MegaNanza, Payne said.

The National Indian Gaming Commission contends that MegaNanza machines are Class III games, which include slot machines, cards and dice games and are generally illegal in Oklahoma. Federal gaming officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The tribes dispute that, saying MegaNanza is an electronic version of bingo, which is included in Class II, a legal form of gaming in Oklahoma.

Tribes can be fined as much as $25,000 per day for each unlawful machine. Several tribes unplugged electronic gambling machines after federal gaming officials last week warned them to stop playing.

The maker of the game, Austin, Texas-based MultiMedia Games Inc., sued the gaming commission May 3, seeking a judge's ruling on whether the game is legal on Indian land in Oklahoma.

Clifton Lind, president and chief operating officer of MultiMedia, testified that his company has more than 4,200 MegaNanza machines in Indian casinos, with 95 percent of those in Oklahoma.

Lind estimated the nine tribes and MultiMedia would lose a combined $10.75 million if the gambling machines remained unplugged for a month.

The tribes have said removing the games would undermine their economies and self-sufficiency, stripping revenues they say pays for tribal programs including schools, roads and hospitals.