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Tribe makes important gains in legislative session

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By Enterprise Staff

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas made important gains during this year’s session of the Texas Legislature, with more than two-thirds of the members of the Texas House of Representatives voting to express support for the tribe.

During an early May vote on House Bill 2843, legislation to establish a regulatory structure should casino gaming come to Texas, an amendment to the bill that codified a gaming compact that would permit the tribe to expand its current gaming operations and to ensure zones of exclusivity to protect the tribe’s market, was approved by the House on a vote of 101-30. Specifically, the amendment required that if casinos came to Texas, they could not be built near Naskila Casino, and that the governor would have to approve a gaming compact in which the state would give the tribe express permission to offer certain types of gaming on tribal property.

HB 2843 ultimately did not become law because a related bill, HJR 155 which referred the issue of casino gaming to the voters for consideration, did not receive the two-thirds support from House members it needed. Still, the overwhelming support for the pro-tribe amendment to HB 2843 demonstrated strong support for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas among state legislators from both parties. The Tribe would like to thank area Representatives Travis Clardy, Ernest Bailes and Christian Manuel for their continued support both at home and in Austin.

“We continue to build momentum as more and more of our elected officials understand the benefit that Naskila Casino delivers to the Texas economy,” Ricky Sylestine, chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Tribal Council, said. “The vote on this amendment was an important show of support for our tribe. As Texas legislators discuss this issue in the future, our tribe will continue to have a seat at the table.”

Naskila Casino, the electronic bingo operation on the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Reservation, is responsible for 825 jobs and more than $212 million in annual economic activity.

The tribe is also encouraged by developments at the federal level. Earlier this year, Congressman Morgan Luttrell introduced the Tribal Gaming Regulatory Compliance Act, which seeks to ensure that all federally recognized tribes that are eligible for gaming in the United States are regulated under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Although the United States Supreme Court found in 2022 that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe can legally offer electronic bingo at Naskila, there remains an open question whether the tribe and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso are eligible to game under IGRA, the federal regulatory scheme overseeing tribal gaming nationwide.

In recent years, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to put the two Texas tribes under IGRA and this year’s federal effort has continued to build on the past success. Mirroring the momentum in the Texas State House, the legislation introduced by Luttrell already has 12 Texas members of Congress cosponsoring the legislation, including eight from the Republican party.

Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn have opposed efforts to put Texas under the IGRA framework. Still, the tribe enjoys strong support from fellow Texans. More than 85 civic, business and political organizations have approved resolutions stating support for the type of legislation that Luttrell introduced.

“Our strong support in the Texas Legislature should show Governor Abbott and Senator Cornyn that many of their fellow elected officials recognize the ways that Naskila Casino benefits the Texas economy,” Sylestine said. “We will continue to work with our elected officials at the local, state and national levels to build support and deliver the fairness we deserve.”

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