Chairperson Jo Ann Battise of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe. Photo: Support Naskila / Alabama-Coushatta Tribe

Alabama-Coushatta Tribe backs bill in Congress to restore gaming rights

Amid a court fight with the state of Texas, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is supporting a bill to restore its gaming rights.

H.R.4985, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas Equal and Fair Opportunity Settlement Act, ensures that the tribe can follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Passage of the bill would presumably protect Naskila Gaming, the tribe's Class II gaming facility, from the state's ongoing litigation.

"This is a fairness issue," Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), the sponsor of H.R.4985, told The Houston Chronicle, "as this bill would ensure the Alabama-Coushatta tribe receives the same treatment that the federal government extends to other tribes."

The tribe is urging visitors to Naskila to "Join the Fight!" the paper said. A new website, supportnaskila.com, has been set up to drum up support for the measure.

“We are confident that Congress will act quickly to address the inconsistencies in how Indian tribes are treated regarding gaming," Chairperson Jo Ann Battise said in press release.
The bill -- which has three co-sponsors, all Republicans -- has not yet secured a hearing in the House. A prior version was considered in 2015 but that version would have forced the tribe to give up a $270 million land claim.

H.R.4985, in contrast, is a clean fix to the 1987 law that restored the tribe to federal recognition. Notably, IGRA became law a year later.

The lobbying comes as the tribe secured a stay of a federal judge's order against Naskila as it pursues an appeal. In a decision on Monday, Magistrate Keith Giblin also postponed an upcoming hearing that was supposed to address contempt of court charges against the tribe.

"The tribe has also advanced a number of legitimate legal arguments which – although declined by this court – are sufficient to at least present a substantial argument on the merits on appeal," Giblin wrote in the five-page order.

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

Separately, Giblin granted a motion filed by the state of Texas to remove individual tribal leaders, including Chairperson Battise, from the lawsuit. The decision means they won't be on the hook, personally, in any potential contempt citations.

The tribe has taken the dispute to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. At issue is whether the tribe can offer Class II games like bingo and electronic version of bingo, which are legal under Texas law.

The state, however, contends that a provision in the Alabama-Coushatta Restoration Act prohibits the tribe from engaging in gaming on its homelands without express approval from the state.

The National Indian Gaming Commission, a federal agency, sided with the tribe and said IGRA "impliedly repealed" the provision at issue. The agency, though, is not involved in the lawsuit.

Read More on the Story:
Alabama-Coushatta tribe fight for right to a gaming center - again (The Houston Chronicle February 25, 2018)

Related Stories:
Bill affirms Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and Tigua Tribe gaming rights (February 15, 2018)
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe vows fight to protect casino after loss in court (February 7, 2018)
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe back in court to defend modest casino (May 11, 2017)
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe faces legal fight over modest casino (October 25, 2016)
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe shares economic impact of new casino (September 19, 2016)
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe back in court to defend gaming rights (August 17, 2016)

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