Texas Indian Tribe Must Close Casino
Jan. 18, 2002
EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ A federal appeals court Thursday ordered the Tigua Indians to shut down their casino, agreeing with state prosecutors that it violates Texas law.
The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals didn't specify when Speaking Rock Casino 15 miles south of El Paso must close.
The casino opened nine years ago, offering 850 jobs and generating thousands of dollars for each of the tribe's 1,200 members. The casino pulls in about $60 million annually and has pumped millions into the area's economy.
Tribal spokesman Marc Schwartz said the council planned to meet Saturday to decide what course the Tiguas will take in the case.
``We remain committed to our struggle against the attempt by the attorney general to overturn decades of federal law that clearly establishes our sovereign rights as a recognized Indian tribe,'' Schwartz said Thursday night, reading a statement by tribal Gov. Albert Alvidrez.
Attorney General John Cornyn filed suit in 1999 to close the casino, arguing that casino-style gambling is prohibited in Texas. The tribe argued that the State Lottery Act in 1991 allowed them to operate a Las Vegas-style gambling hall on tribal land.
Last fall, U.S. District Judge Garnet Thomas Eisele ordered the casino shut down, prompting the appeal.
The Tiguas have two weeks to decide if they will seek a rehearing in front of the entire court.
Speaking Rock, which resembles a Southwestern trading post, started with high-stakes bingo and slot machines, and has added blackjack, poker and craps.
In eastern Texas, the Alabama-Coushatta recently opened a casino, prompting a promise from Cornyn to shut it down.