Texas tribes optimistic as state stays mum on gaming ruling

A welcome sign on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation in Texas. Photo from Alabama-Coushatta Tribe

The state of Texas isn't commenting on a decision by the Obama administration that affirms the gaming rights of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and the Tigua Tribe.

The National Indian Gaming Commission approved Class II gaming ordinances for the tribes last month. The ruling clears the way for the tribes to offer bingo and electronic forms of bingo on their reservations.

"All we’re asking for is to be under federal jurisdiction when it comes to gaming, and have the same rights as other tribes," Tigua Gov. Carlos Hisa told The San Antonio Express-News.

Both tribes were forced to shut down their casinos in the early 2000s as part of litigation with the state. But officials aren't saying anything with respect to the latest development -- nothing has been filed in court even though the state knew about the NIGC's decision in early October.

The Speaking Rock Entertainment Center on the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo in El Paso, Texas. Photo from Facebook

"We have not heard anything from the state," Alabama-Coushatta spokesperson Carlos Bullock told the paper.

Both tribes were restored to federal recognition by Congress in the 1980s. The law contains a provision that reads:
All gaming activities which are prohibited by the laws of the State of Texas are hereby prohibited on the reservation and on lands of the tribe.

The Office of the Solicitor at the Interior Department, however, concluded that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act "impliedly repealed" the provision. IGRA became law in 1988, a year after the Alabama-Coushatta Restoration Act and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Restoration Act became law.

"The primary purpose of the Restoration Act was to restore the federal trust relationship and federal service and assistance to the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas," a September 10 letter reads.

The Lucky Eagle Casino on the Kickapoo Reservation in Texas. Photo from Facebook

IGRA therefore applies to the tribes, DOI concluded, but the letter cautions that Class III gaming remains off limits unless the tribes enter into compacts with the state.

The letter was filed in federal court under seal on October 6 and unsealed on October 27. It was accompanied by the NIGC's letter approving the gaming ordinance.

The Kickapoo Tribe does not fall under the Restoration Act and already operates a Class II facility. The state has refused to negotiate a Class III compact.

Get the Story:
Texas tribes hope their legal battle for gaming is over (The San Antonio Express-News 11/4)
Alabama-Coushatta to bring back bingo after federal approval (The Beaumont Enterprise 11/4)

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