This week a Tenth Circuit panel reversed and vacated an arbitration decision that had previously exempted an Oklahoma tribe from $27 million in alcohol sales taxes. The case began after a 2014 tax audit was launched by Oklahoma tax authorities, according to Law360, after the tribe asserting $27 million in tax exemptions for sales tax on alcohol served to nonmember casino patrons. The state questioned the exemptions, revoked alcohol beverage permits for the casinos and, according to Law360, threatened to close the casinos and other businesses for allegedly failing to report sales tax collections, thus, prompting the tribe to bring the arbitration.
The Tenth Circuit held that a tribal-state gaming compact with an arbitration provision contingent upon the availability of de novo review was unenforceable and conflicted with the Supreme Court’s decision in Hall Street Associates v. Mattel. In Hall Street, as reported by Law360, the Supreme Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act prevents parties to an arbitration agreement from contracting for de novo review of an arbitration award.