FROM THE ARCHIVE

Supreme Court won't review Texas casino case

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TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2002

The Supreme Court on Monday dealt the final blow to a Texas tribe's attempt to keep its financially successful casino alive.

Without comment, the Justices declined to hear an appeal filed by the Tigua Tribe. Located in El Paso, the tribe closed its Speaking Rock Casino in February after losing a long court battle.

The facility has since reopened but with a limited slate of games for customers. The appeal represented the last legal hope to bring back profitable and popular casino machines considered illegal in the state.

The tribe can pursue Congressional options but key lawmakers have warned the effort might not succeed. "We'll do our best," said Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, at a recent hearing on Texas gaming.

Yesterday's action lets stand a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision issued in January. In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel affirmed an order to close the casino.

The closure was based on a 1987 law that restored federal recognition to the once impoverished Tiguas. According to the court, the tribe made a promise never to offer casino-style games on the Ysleta del Sur Reservation.

The tribe protested and cited numerous other forms of gambling allowed in the state. Lottery, slot-like machines horse races and casino cruises are legal.

"I guess I'm just trying to figure out what Texas is complaining about," said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), the Indian affairs vice chairman, when told about the proliferation of gaming by Alabama-Coushatta Chairman Kevin Battise.

Like the Tiguas, Battise's tribe has been pulled out of poverty thanks to gaming. But it is also subject to the same law and its casino was ordered closed.

The Supreme Court's decision to reject the Tigua case bodes poorly for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, which has a legal challenge pending. A federal judge in June called the tribe's Entertainment Center an "unlawful enterprise."

A third Texas tribe, the Kickapoo, isn't subject to limitations on their right to game.

Marc Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Tigua Tribe, did not have an immediate response to the denial of certiorari. Attorney General John Cornyn's office did not return a request for comment.

Relevant Documents:
Docket Sheet No. 01-1671

Relevant Links:
Speaking Rock Casino, Tigua Tribe - http://www.speakingrockcasino.com
Office of Attorney General, Texas - http://www.oag.state.tx.us

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