The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe owns and operates Naskila Gaming in Livingston, Texas. Photo: Naskila Gaming

Alabama-Coushatta Tribe vows fight to protect casino after loss in court

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is promising a fight to keep its gaming facility in Texas up and running after a loss in court.

The tribe opened Naskila Gaming in 2016 after a 14-year absence from the casino industry. The state quickly countered with a lawsuit that said the facility was illegal.

A federal judge has agreed with that premise. In a decision on Tuesday, Magistrate Keith Giblin said the tribe agreed to a ban on gaming when it was restored to federal recognition in 1987.

"Until Congress can be persuaded to amend or repeal the Restoration Act, the court is obligated to abide by the plain language of the statute and the tribe must conform to the gaming laws and regulations of Texas as provided by the Restoration Act," Giblin wrote, referring to the Alabama-Coushatta Restoration Act.

Immediately following the decision, the tribe filed a motion to stay the decision pending an appeal. The tribe followed up on Wednesday by filing a notice of appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe remains confident in its legal position and has already filed a Notice of Appeal," Chairperson Jo Ann Battise said in a statement to The Beaumont Enterprise. "The Tribe has also filed a Motion with the Court requesting the ability to stay open pending the appeal process in order to protect the 330 jobs that the Tribe provides as the third largest employer in Polk County."

The tribe previously lost an appeal in the 5th Circuit after it was forced to shut down an early gaming facility. The gaming prohibition in the Restoration Act was affirmed.

But the landscape changed when the National Indian Gaming Commission, a federal agency, said Congress "impliedly repealed" the 1987 Restoration Act when it passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988.

The tribe subsequently opened Naskila, which only offers Class II games, such as bingo and electronic versions of bingo. Bingo is legal in Texas.

The earlier casino, in contrast, offered Class III games like slot machines. Texas law prohibits slot machines and the state has refused to enter into a compact with the tribe for such games.

Judge Giblin, however, did not address that distinction because he said it was "unnecessary" to do so. The prohibition in the Restoration Act applies to "all gaming under Texas law, whether Class II or Class III."

The ruling appears to run contrary to one in a similar case from Massachusetts. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that IGRA repealed an act of Congress that placed the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe under state law.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn the ruling, solidifying the tribe's victory.

But there is no guarantee that the 5th Circuit will change course and adopt a precedent like the one from the 1st Circuit. And even if there is a disagreement between the circuits, there is no guarantee the Supreme Court will want to resolve it.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, State of Texas v. Alabama-Coushatta Tribe

Read More on the Story:
Ruling could close popular bingo hall near Woodville (The Beaumont Enterprise February 7, 2018)

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