Lewis Roca regularly provides legal and strategic advice to tribal government and tribal enterprise clients on issues related to policy, economic development, Indian gaming, state and federal legislative and administrative practice, licensing matters, real estate and project development, litigation, general business law matters, and financial land transactions.
Led by Stephen Hart, our national presence in Indian law has received top rankings from Chambers USA, U.S. News – Best Lawyers®, AZ Business Leaders, Super Lawyers®, and Nevada Business Magazine, among others.
We are widely known for our work on tribal economic development initiatives driven by complex compact negotiations, deep legislative knowledge, and major project development on Indian lands.
Areas of focus include:
Multi-Tribe Compact Negotiations
We regularly conduct complex, long-term negotiations between multiple tribes to secure new tribal-state gaming compacts or renegotiate compacts to meet economic development goals involving revenue sharing, compact amendments, and approval through the state legislatures and the Department of Interior. In addition to compact work, our lawyers and policy experts advise on licensing; negotiation of regulatory appendices; and a variety of gaming issues impacting casinos in Arizona, California, and New Mexico. Group Leader Stephen Hart served as the personal legal advisor to Arizona Governor Jane Hull and negotiated new tribal-state gaming compacts with 22 tribal governments across the state.
Tribal clients value our ability to reach consensus across sovereign tribal nations and state governments. We have a long track record of successfully coordinating priorities of tribal executive staff and board members and serving as experienced liaisons to tribal leadership on policy and intergovernmental relations.
State and Federal Legislation
The group includes administrative and legislative policy specialists in government relations, regulatory and licensing matters, and tribal governance issues. Our team regularly interacts with the United Senate Indian Affairs Committee, select members of Congress and their staffs and state legislators, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Indian Gaming Commission to write and pass legislation in support of tribal nations.
Major Project Development
On behalf of our tribal clients, we are involved in all legal aspects of multimillion-dollar casino-resort development projects, from obtaining community and political support to successfully acquiring land, securing the land into trust, negotiating easements for infrastructure, and final construction.
Notable experience includes:
- Writing legislation for a California-based tribe as well as strategizing and drafting amendments to effect compromise and move bills forward. During the 2019 California legislative session, we wrote legislation affecting the penal code and the tribe’s ability to enforce the state criminal law, including organized labor, the sheriff’s office, and other law enforcement officials and tribes. We have also prepared letters and advocated for audits of state agencies concerning their use of tribal funds. These activities were important in establishing the tribe’s role in California vis-à-vis state government and the tribe’s ability to pursue and enforce its own legislation. Additionally, we serve as borrower’s counsel to the tribe on financing matters, loan compliance matters, and insurance matters.
- Managing compact negotiations for a tribe’s gaming enterprise. Since the first quarter of 2017, we have been negotiating with the states and approximately 14 additional tribes to conclude new gaming compacts. Previously, our lawyers successfully concluded compact negotiations between the tribe and the state of New Mexico.
- Supporting a tribe’s purchase of approximately 14 acres of land for $5.2 million for development of a new project and preparing to take land into trust. We went through an extensive due diligence process, including requisite environmental work, in anticipation of requesting an Indian lands determination from the federal government, as this site should qualify as the settlement of a land claim.
- Representing an investment advisory firm in a high-stakes licensing matters in connection with issues raised under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. When our client applied for licensure in connection with management contracts held by three tribal gaming entities, we successfully interfaced with the gaming agencies and commissions as well as the Arizona Department of Gaming, the California Bureau of Gambling Control, and the National Indian Gaming Commission.
- Serving as borrower’s counsel in a combined $280 million refinancing of taxable debt, tax-exempt debt, and a new issuance of taxable and tax-exempt monies. We conduct all necessary and appropriate due diligence, coordinate negotiations of the documents with lenders and client, and issue necessary legal opinions for closing. In addition to taxable debt, the financing will also include a significant portion of tax-exempt Tribal Economic Development (TED) Bonds. This financing was one of the few to use recent IRS guidance on refunding TED Bonds, which provided the tribe with significant interest savings.
- Providing legal support for the development of a large casino in California. The development of this casino has several aspects:
- Working with the tribe to develop its business relationships with the developer and management contractor; specifically, negotiating a management contract and a development agreement amendment, and obtaining approval of both documents from the National Indian Gaming Commission.
- Developing a legal infrastructure in the form of a gaming ordinance and gaming regulations and proposing a potential change to the gaming compact with the state of California.
- Negotiating a Memorandum of Agreement with the local government for the provision of fire and emergency medical services.
- Beginning the critical work of financing by negotiating loan documents and establishing the due diligence necessary to support the funding of the project.
- Serving as counsel to an Arizona-based tribe with respect to the renegotiation and extension of a casino management agreement and hotel management agreement with an international casino operator and management company. Our lawyers advised the tribe with respect to tax matters, employer control, and Indian gaming matters during the negotiation and finalization of the management agreements. We also assisted in negotiations with federal agencies in anticipation of their necessary approvals of the casino management agreement, and ultimately helped win approval of the same.
- For one of the largest carbon offset projects to date for an Indian tribe, representing the tribe in the administration and sale of California Carbon Offsets (CCO) from its forest carbon credit projects, which were issued pursuant to California law. These projects include a significant portion of all CCOs issued in California. We worked with the tribe to negotiate and document the Emission Rights Purchase Agreement (ERPA) that governed the sale of certain CCOs to a large purchaser, as well as other matters. We currently provide advice related to CCO compliance and transactional matters regarding the sale and distribution of CCOs.
- Provided Indian law counsel to a developer and contractor in the sale of a REIT of sub-leasehold interests in a parcel owned by allotted landowners within a tribe. The $67 million transaction achieved both parties’ goals in a manner consistent with the tribe’s long-term development plans.
- Serving as trustee’s counsel to a major bank in a long-term workout and renegotiation of taxable tribal bonds issued by a California-based tribe. We also advise the client with respect to Indian law matters, tribal law matters, trust indenture matters, trustee liability issues, and all manner of renegotiations of $200 million in outstanding bonds that are currently in default.
Latest from Lewis Roca
- Webinar |  06/29/2021
- Honors & Recognitions |  04/8/2021
- Press Release |  11/23/2020