From Enterprise Staff
Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has proven monumental to the future of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and the economic success of Deep East Texas.
The Supreme Court ruled on June 15, 2022 that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe could continue to operate Naskila Casino, its electronic bingo facility that has been open since 2016. The State of Texas pushed for years to close the facility, but the Court ruled 5-4 that the state does not have the authority to prohibit electronic bingo on tribal lands because electronic bingo is not a game that is prohibited by state law.
The decision came in the case of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas. Both the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo located in El Paso and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas located in Livingston operate electronic bingo facilities on their reservations.
“The Supreme Court decision ended years of uncertainty for the Tribe and for Naskila,” Ricky Sylestine, chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Tribal Council. “It was not easy protecting our tribal sovereignty against the powerful elected officials in Texas. However, we had no choice and the Supreme Court decision confirmed that we were doing the right thing for our people and for the people who depend on Naskila Casino for their livelihoods.”
Naskila Casino has remained a key component of the Deep East Texas economy. The facility injected $212 million into the Polk County economy in 2022, according to a report commissioned by the Texas Forest Country Partnership released earlier this year. The study by the economic analysis firm TXP found that Naskila Casino is responsible for 825 permanent local jobs with a collective payroll of $22.5 million, including 400 jobs at the casino.
The tribe continues its gaming efforts in the U.S. Congress. 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 are regulated under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Currently, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo are not regulated under IGRA, which sets them apart from other tribal nations offering gaming across the country. Identical legislation to Luttrell’s has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved similar legislation in prior years, but those bills died in the U.S. Senate. For reasons unknown to the two tribes, Gov. Greg Abbott has urged senators not to support legislation to place tribes under IGRA.
“Last year’s decision by the Supreme Court was a historic victory for our tribe and for tribal sovereignty,” Sylestine said. “Because of Naskila Casino, we are able to support our tribe and assist in the expansion of economic development for our fellow Texans. We will continue our efforts for the benefit of our tribal members and our fellow citizens in Texas.”