County offers support for embattled Indian casino

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Madisonville County Commissioners agreed Monday to add its support to the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in the tribe’s efforts to keep its Naskila gaming facility in Livingston open.

The Alabama-Coushatta tribe has battled with legislators since it re-opened its doors in 2016 to offer “Class II’ games, essentially slot-machine adjacent electronic bingo. The tribe had opened the casino in the early 2000s, offering Class III games – all forms of gambling – only to be shut down by the state soon after.

Now, the tribe is attempting to build support for federal bill House Resolution 759, authored and sponsored by U.S. Representative Brian Babin (R-TX), who represents the district where the casino lies. The tribe is asking a number of counties in Texas to introduce resolutions in support of the bill, such as the one Madison County adopted Monday.

“They’ve got a list of counties who have supported this,” County Judge Tony Leago told commissioners. “It’s giving them an ‘atta-boy,’ is about what it amounts to.”

The resolution declares the County’s support for the bill and asks U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, as well as all Texas congressman to help pass the measure.

Congress is expected to vote on H.R. 759 sometime soon after the July 4 holiday break.

Meanwhile, the State of Texas and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are fighting to close the facility, reportedly asking for a $10,000 fine for each day the facility has operated since the grand opening in May 2016.

According to the Texas Tribune’s TexPlainer feature, says Naskila is actually one of two casinos operating in the state:

“The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino near Eagle Pass is a fully functioning casino, complete with a poker room and gaming machines. It’s as close as Texans can get to Las Vegas-style casinos without leaving the state.

“Meanwhile, Naskila Gaming, a casino-like facility near Livingston, is the focus of an ongoing legal battle between the state and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe. Texas Attorney General Ken

Paxton says the facility is subject to state laws. The tribe says it has federal authority to allow certain kinds of gambling. Right now, the venue is operating, but the state is trying to shut it down.”

On March 14, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the state, citing the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act of 1987, pointing out the final section of the Restoration Act bans most gambling, even on Indian land:

“It provides that ‘all gaming activities which are prohibited by the laws of the State of Texas are hereby prohibited on the reservation and on the lands of the tribe’,” the court said in its opinion.

The tribe responded to the ruling quickly, with Tribal Council Chairperson Cecila Flores issuing the statement “There are 371 full-time jobs at stake, and we have a moral obligation to fight or every one of the people working at Naskila Gaming. Our alcohol-free facility is making a significant difference in the lives of East Texans and we will continue to pursue every legal avenue to continue operating Naskila Gaming on our Tribal lands.”

According to information on the Madison County Resolution, the Naskila facility has created 560 new jobs in East Texas, contributed nearly $140 million in revenue and provided more than 46 full-paid scholarships for graduating high school students of the Tribe in 2018.

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