Thirteen years after the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas was forced to cease all gambling operations, the tribe’s property just off U.S. Highway 190 in East Texas could soon be home to a new casino.
Last Tuesday tribe spokesman, Carlos Bullock, announced that the tribe had received federal approval to resume electronic betting by 2016. The announcement comes about one month after the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) ruled that just as the Tigua Indians can operate Class II gambling, bingo and games such as pull-tabs, and non–banking card games like poker, on the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo reservation near El Paso, so can the Alabama-Coushatta. Baring delays due to legal challenges from Texas state officials that could potentially derail the plan, the tribe will be opening a casino on its 10,000 plus acre reservation south of Livingston by early next year, according to the Star-Telegram.
The Alabama-Coushatta first offered gambling in 2001 only to have it shut down nine months later due to a federal court ruling resulting from a challenge launched by then Texas Attorney General John Cornyn; the same challenge that shut down the operations of the Tigua tribe of El Paso. Prior to being shut down, the Alabama-Coushatta’s casino generated approximately $1 million a month, according to Bullock. He said that the tribe has struggled financially since it was forced to close in 2002. Bullock said that the closing was devastating to the tribe, which lost revenue and jobs, all while casinos in nearby states, such as the Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar World Casino and Resort in Oklahoma, continued to flourish.
A difference in the legal status of the Kickapoo tribe has allowed it to operate its Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass since 1996. Because the Kickapoo tribe was federally recognized prior to the 1987 law that trumped national Indian law outlawing casino gambling for all in Texas, it enabled the Kickapoo to move forward with its casino, and is the only Native American tribe in Texas allowed to oversee gambling. However, Alabama-Coushatta tribal officials now believe that the latest development in the more than ten-year old legal battle which gives them a right to operate Class II gaming, per the Gaming Regulatory Act, means the tribe can proceed with its plans to reopen a casino. While tribal officials say they are going to do what the federal government now says it can do, they’ve requested a meeting with Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to discuss the issue. While the tribe can open its casino 120 days after it submits a facility license notification to the National Indian Gaming Commission, neither tribe has done so, according to spokesman for the commission, Michael Odle.
Thee Alabama-Coushatta tribe and its 1,200 members plan to use the same building that was used in 2001 for its Livingston Entertainment Center, and will hopefully open in 2016, according to Bullock. It is anticipated that the reopening will create 150 jobs and bring in about 300 machines to the casino that will have an approximate 500 person capacity.