From Enterprise Staff
Last October the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in a case that could make clear that two federally recognized tribes in Texas — Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas — are allowed to operate electronic bingo facilities on their reservations. Oral arguments in the case will be heard by the Court at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The case is extremely important to the economy and the people of Texas because a ruling from the Supreme Court has the potential to end the State of Texas’ longtime effort to prevent the two tribes from offering electronic bingo on their reservations. Currently, the two tribes both have electronic bingo facilities on their reservations.
The Court agreed in October to hear Ysleta del Sur Pueblo’s request to overturn a 1994 Fifth Circuit decision finding that the Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe are ineligible to offer gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”). Instead, the Fifth Circuit found that the ability of the two tribes to offer gaming is controlled by the 1987 act of Congress that restored federal recognition for both Nations. Since that decision, the state of Texas has actively sought to block all attempts by either the Pueblo or Tribe to offer gaming under IGRA, a 1988 federal statute enacted by Congress to regulate the conduct of gaming on federal Indian lands.
In 2016, the Pueblo opened a bingo facility in El Paso, offering the same type of electronic bingo games that the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas located near Eagle Pass has offered on its lands since 1996. Thereafter, the state Texas filed suit against the Pueblo, arguing that under the 1994 Fifth Circuit decision the Pueblo, unlike the Kickapoo Tribe, was prohibited from offering bingo under IGRA. In an April 2020 ruling, a panel of the Fifth Circuit panel sided with the state; it is this same ruling that the Supreme Court agreed to review.
In a separate case, this past August a federal judge in Beaumont agreed with the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe that it could legally offer electronic bingo at its Naskila Gaming facility under the Tribe’s 1987 Restoration Act.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas operates Naskila Gaming the second-largest employer in Polk County. Some 700 jobs are tied directly or indirectly to Naskila Gaming, as well as over $170 million in annual economic stimulus, making its long-term stability essential to the economic future of East Texas.
Despite the state’s longtime effort to close the facility, Naskila Gaming enjoys broad, bipartisan support among Texans. More than 80 civic, community and business groups have formally approved resolutions supporting Naskila Gaming. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation saying that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and Pueblo should be governed under IGRA — legislation that would effectively stop the state’s efforts to close the facilities. That legislation, H.R. 2208, has not yet been acted upon by the U.S. Senate.
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