Federal law will fix unfair treatment of tribes in Texas
Many Texans are unaware that three federally recognized Indian tribes call Texas their home — the Traditional Kickapoo Tribe of Texas in Eagle Pass, the Ysleta del sur Pueblo in El Paso and our tribe, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas near Livingston.
When it comes to gaming, though, the three tribes are treated differently by state officials. Since 1996, the Kickapoo Tribe has offered electronic bingo at its Lucky Eagle facility without interference from the state. The Kickapoo operate their facility pursuant to a gaming ordinance approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission, or NIGC, the federal agency authorized to oversee Indian gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA.
Although the NIGC has approved gaming ordinances for both our tribe and the Pueblo, the Texas attorney general has elected to spend millions of taxpayer dollars in an effort to prevent our tribe and the Pueblo from offering the same bingo games as the Kickapoo Tribe.
To bring an end to this unequal treatment, to stop the needless spending of tax dollars in protracted litigation and to protect well-paying Texas jobs, our U.S. representative, Brian Babin, has introduced the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Equal and Fair Opportunity Act of 2019, or HR 759.
This bill, which is a mere 19 words in length, clarifies that our tribe and the Pueblo are permitted to offer bingo under IGRA, just as the Kickapoo have for the past 23 years.
HR 759 enjoys bipartisan support, with its 24 co-sponsors evenly divided among Republicans and Democrats. In fact, 11 of Rep. Babin’s fellow Texans are counted among the bill’s co-sponsors.
Our Naskila Gaming facility is an alcohol-free venue offering electronic bingo that is making a positive impact not only for our tribe but also for our neighbors in Deep East Texas.
At Naskila, our tribe employs 385 individuals, with more than 70 percent employees coming from outside of our tribal membership. These are well-paying jobs with excellent health care and retirement benefits, benefits that both tribal and nontribal employees report are being offered to them for the first times in their careers.
In addition to these jobs, more than 200 indirect jobs have been created in industries that service the guests who travel to our region to visit Naskila.
Moreover, last year the Texas Forest Country Partnership commissioned an independent economic study that determined Naskila is responsible for contributing nearly $140 million annually to the economy of Deep East Texas. It is fair to say that these are jobs and economic contributions to our region that do not exist but for Naskila.
Naskila Gaming enjoys overwhelming support from the local governments, business and community leaders. Nearly 30 municipalities, county commissioners courts, chambers of commerce and local business have passed resolutions calling for the passage of HR 759. Our tribe is grateful and humbled by all the support we have received from our neighbors in Deep East Texas.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe now asks that you consider joining us in the effort to pass HR 759, thereby protecting the jobs and economic contributions created for our region by Naskila Gaming. If you are willing to help, please let your representatives and senators know that you support the passage of HR 759, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Equal and Fair Opportunity Act of 2019. You can contact them through the www.supportactribe.com website.
Our tribe has been in Texas since the 1870s and served as guides for Gen. Sam Houston’s army and assisted Texans fleeing Santa Anna during the Runaway Scrape. We take pride in our contributions to the history of Texas and look forward to continuing to have a positive impact in Deep East Texas.
The passage of HR 759 will ensure that we can do so.
Cecilia Flores is the tribal council chairperson of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.