Hollywood Casino Jamul on the Jamul Indian Village in California is one step closer to opening this summer after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against opponents, and for the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) over whether the NIGC was required to wait for an environmental impact statement before approving a gaming ordinance for the tribe.

The three judge panel unanimously concurred that the NIGC did not have to have the EIS completed before approving the gaming ordinance as there is only a 90 day window for approval and environmental impact statements can take years to complete under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The judges determined that forcing completion of an EIS would create an “irreconcilable conflict” with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Writing for the unanimous majority in Jamul Action Committee v. Jonodev Chaudhuri (Chairman of the NIGC) Judge Morgan Christen said, “There is no question that it would be impossible for NIGC to prepare an EIS in the ninety days it has to approve a gaming ordinance,” the judge wrote in 16 page decision.

On March 14 the NIGC released a Notice of Availability of a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Jamul Indian Village (JIV) Proposed Gaming Management Agreement on the Federal Register stating that the Jamul Indian Village would not need a Gaming Management Agreement (GMA) at all if they were to run the casino themselves. In earlier proceedings before the appeals court, Judge Morgan Brenda Christen asked counsel for the Jamul Action Committee and lawyers for the JIV whether they thought that was the case, signalling Thursday’s possible outcome.

The tribe and possible operating partner Penn National Gaming were not named in the lawsuit filed by the local opposition group. The casino plans to open some time this summer under Penn’s Hollywood brand. If the NIGC does not approve a gaming contract within 90 days the tribe could still open and run the casino on their own with consultants until a contract could be approved.