Isn't there already Indian Gaming in Texas?
Yes, but only for one of the three federally recognized tribes. The Kickapoo Tribe in Eagle Pass is allowed to offer only Class II gaming on its reservation. The Alabama -Coushatta Tribe petitioned the Department of Interior to grant that the Restoration Act allows Class II gaming on tribal lands held in trust prior to 1988. After a lengthy set of conversations with the DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, the petition was answered in the affirmative.
Are the Alabama-Coushatta operating a casino?
No. The Alabama-Coushatta’s entertainment venue, Naskila Gaming, is only offering Class II gaming in the form of electronic bingo. Under federal law, Class II gaming is bingo and games associated with bingo. Further, federal law permits the playing of bingo with the aid of computer enhancements. Therefore, tribes may legally offer bingo played on a video terminal. including bingo played electronically. A tribe may offer bingo so long as the tribe is located in a state that permits bingo for any purpose, by any person, organization or entity.
What’s to prevent Indian gaming operations from popping up in major cities and dozens of locations around the state?
The Department of Interior is very specific. Class II gaming will only be allowed on Texas tribal lands owned prior to 1988. This gaming will be confined to the reservations of the three federally recognized tribes.
Is the State of Texas challenging gaming on Tribal lands?
Yes. The State of Texas filed a legal challenge to Naskila Gaming. The Attorney General of the State of Texas has asked a Federal District Court to find that under the Tribe’s Restoration Act of 1987, the Alabama-Coushatta cannot offer gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA), passed in 1988. If the Court ultimately agrees with the State’s position, the State further asks the Court to issue an injunction prohibiting the Tribe from gaming under IGRA. The Tribe is confident that the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) determination that the Alabama-Coushatta may legally offer Class II bingo pursuant to IGRA is binding and proper; and the Tribe fully anticipates that the Court will agree with its position. A trial schedule has been set, and the case will be heard in federal court in 2017.
Won’t this compete with charitable bingo that is allowed in Texas for low stake prizes up to $500?
The Alabama-Coushatta bingo operation epitomizes the very essence of what charitable bingo could be. The tribe is a fully functioning government with health and educational services and affordable housing. However, unlike counties and cities, they do not generate revenue from property tax because the land belongs to the reservation. The revenue sources, other than federal grants, have varied through the years, they have some oil and gas leases, some income from timber and small retail operations. The revenue from the bingo operation would go to provide the Alabama-Coushatta with a self-sustaining economy that raises the standard of living for tribal families.
Will Nasikla Gaming remain open during the legal proceedings?
Yes. The Alabama-Coushatta will continue to operate the Naskila Gaming facility in 2016. The state may be seeking a permanent closure, but until there is a court ruling affirming the state’s allegations, the Alabama-Coushatta will continue to operate the facility. Prior to Naskila’s opening, Tribal Council directed the Tribal Attorneys to begin communicating with the Texas Attorney General’s Office and a Pre-Litigation Agreement between the Tribe and the Attorney General’s Office was reached which will allow Naskila Gaming to remain open during court proceedings. This is not the same legal case it was in 2001-2002. The Alabama-Coushatta are now operating the bingo gaming facility pursuant to federal authorization similar to Tribes all over the country. The bingo revenue derived from Naskila Gaming is providing much needed funding for vital Tribal government programs.
Update on Legal Challenge by the State of Texas
On August 15, 2016, the State of Texas filed a legal action asking the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to find that under the Tribe’s Restoration Act the Tribe of 1987, the Alabama-Coushatta cannot offer gaming under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA). If the Court ultimately agrees with the State’s position, the State further asks the Court to issue an injunction prohibiting the Tribe from gaming under IGRA.
The Tribe’s Legal Position is Strong
In 2015, the Tribe sought and secured the NIGC’s formal determination that the Tribe could offer Class II bingo on its tribal lands. As required by IGRA, the Tribe passed a Class II gaming ordinance, and the Tribe submitted it to the NIGC. The NIGC determined that IGRA applied to the Tribe and approved the Tribe’s gaming ordinance.
Aware that the State might take the position that the Tribe’s 1987 Restoration Act did not permit the Tribe to offer gaming under IGRA, the Tribe informed the State that they had received NIGC approval and that the Tribe was taking the necessary steps to offer Class II bingo. The Tribe and State then negotiated an agreement to permit the Tribe to operate Naskila pending a Court’s review. of the NIGC’s decision that IGRA applied to the Tribe and that the Tribe can legally offer Class II bingo on its trust lands.