Texas tribe fights casino shutdown order
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TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2002

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas made an urgent plea on Monday to keep its disputed casino up and running.

In emergency papers filed with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the tribe said shutting down its Entertainment Center would have an adverse effect on the reservation and local economy. "The hardship is irreparable," the motion stated.

"The public interest is served by enabling the tribe to function and provide governmental services to its members," the tribe added.

The request was a response to a June 25 decision by U.S. District Judge John Hannah of the Eastern District of Texas. Hannah said the tribe's casino was an "unlawful enterprise" and must bring itself in compliance with state gaming law or risk closure.

"Based on uncontested evidence," Hannah wrote, "the court finds that the activities of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe at the tribe's Entertainment Center constitute violations of Texas law, which operates as surrogate law on the tribe's reservation in Texas."

The ruling was another victory for the state of Texas, which has refused to allow Indian gaming since Ann Richards, a Democrat, was governor. The movement against tribal operations picked up speed during the term of President Bush, who provided funds to go after the Tigua Tribe in western Texas.

Tribes can operate some forms of casino games on Indian laws, which is limited by Texas law. But tribal leaders have pointed out what they call inconsistencies that allow non-Indians to operate bingo, casino cruises, horse racing and video game machines.

"I guess I'm just trying to figure out what Texas is complaining about," sad Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), vice-chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, at a recent hearing to address the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe's woes.

The tribe's emergency plea is unlikely to result in any significant action, based on the court's precedent. The 5th Circuit has rejected repeatedly rebuffed the Tigua Tribe's attempts to allow gaming.

The Tigua Tribe has asked the Supreme Court to intervene. A decision on whether the dispute will be heard won't be made until later this fall.

Alabama-Coushatta chairman Kevin Battise testified last month before the Senate that about a third of the casino's 200-plus employees are tribal members or Native Americans. The tribe has approximately 1,000 members and a 4,000-acre reservation.

Relevant Documents:
Alabama-Coushatta v. Texas (6/25)

Relevant Links:
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe -
Office of Attorney General, Texas -

Related Stories:
Tribe ordered to close casino (6/26)
Another Texas tribe faces shutdown (6/19)