The Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo owns and operates the Speaking Rock Entertainment Center in El Paso, Texas. Photo: SpeakingRock

Tigua Tribe hit with a new lawsuit over gaming operation in Texas

The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, also known as the Tigua Tribe, is once again being sued by the state of Texas.

According to The El Paso Times, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleges the Speaking Rock Entertainment Center offers illegal games. At issue are bingo games, electronic versions of bingo and electronic aids to bingo.

As a Class II game, bingo is normally outside the reach of state authority. But Texas claims it has a right to enforce its laws on the Tiguas due to a provision in the federal law that restored the tribe's federal recognition.

"Both the tribe’s slot machines purporting to offer 'electronic bingo,' and its paper and card minder-based bingo, involve the elements of an illegal lottery in Texas: chance, prize, and consideration," the complaint states, The Times reported.

The federal courts have previously concluded that the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Restoration Act subjects the tribe to the state's gaming laws. The provision was used to force the closure of the tribe's casino in 2002. The facility offered Class III games like slot machines, which are not legal in Texas.

But the National Indian Gaming Commission, during the Obama administration, said the tribe could offer Class II games like bingo, which is legal in Texas. The conclusion was reached after the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of the Interior said the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act essentially superseded the restoration act.

A similar conclusion was reached with respect to the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts. In a landmark decision, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in April agreed that the Obama administration was right.

But Texas falls within the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has not ruled on the issue when it comes to the Tiguas. It's possible that the new lawsuit could lead to resolution of that question in Texas.

Read More on the Story:
State files new lawsuit to end Tigua gaming (The El Paso Times 6/8)

Relevant Documents:
National Indian Gaming Commission Letter to Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (October 5, 2015)
Office of The Solicitor Letter to National Indian Gaming Commission (September 10, 2015)

Related Stories:
Tigua Tribe agrees to state inspection of disputed gaming facility (March 13, 2017)