Tigua Tribe loses gaming appeal
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NOVEMBER 3, 2000

Upholding a lower court decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that Texas can sue the Tigua Tribe for violating state laws against gaming.

The tribe, located near El Paso, has been involved in several legal disputes over the years with the state over its Speaking Rock Casino. The casino offers slot machines, keno, and various card games to patrons.

But the tribe doesn't have a compact with the state to operate them, otherwise classified as Class III games. In 1992, the tribe had asked then Governor Ann Richards to negotiate a compact with them, under the guises of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988.

However, Richards turned them down, noting that state law and policy prohibit those types of games. The tribe then sued the state and Richards, initially winning in federal court, but in 1994, the Fifth Circuit ordered the lawsuit dismissed, due to state sovereignty.

Additionally, the court made a crucial distinction about the tribe's ability to game. The court said Tigua Restoration Act of 1987 specifically prohibits any gaming that violates state law. The Act extended federal recognition to the tribe, who had been under the supervision of the state since 1968.

Since that ruling, the state has attempted to shut down the Tigua's casino operations, but they haven't yet been successful. The state's Attorney General, John Cornyn, finally sued the tribe in September 1999.

In response, the tribe sought to have the lawsuit dismissed in October. But the Fifth Circuit on Wednesday upheld a district court opinion which said the lawsuit can proceed.

The state hopes to permanently shut down the games they say violate state law. The casino also offers bingo, which is not a Class III game, but is prohibited under state law.

Related Story:
Bush v. Texas Tribes: Is it really true? (Money Matters 11/3)

Get the 1994 ruling:
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas (5th Circuit. No. 93-8477. October 1994)

Get the 1987 Restoration Act:
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Restoration of Federal Supervision (25 USC 1300g)

Relevant Links:
Speaking Rock Casino -
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals -
Office of Attorney General, Texas -