Native American tribes gamble on keeping controversial livelihood open in Texas Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A pair of Native American tribes are locked in a legal battle with state regulators to keep their gaming centers open in Texas.

The Tiguas tribe operates a casino on its reservation near El Paso, while the Alabama-Coushatta nation runs a gaming center on its land near Livingston in East Texas, just 80 miles northeast of Houston. Both tribes have faced legal challenges from state gaming authorities who seek to shut down the casinos.

According to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, federally-recognized Native American tribes are allowed to offer “Class II” games, such as bingo and poker, without authorization from the states.

However, the law that allowed for the Alabama-Coushatta tribe to receive federal recognition also prohibited the tribe from establishing casino gaming in Texas.

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On Feb. 6, 2018, a federal judge ruled the tribe’s Naskila Gaming facility “does not comply with the gaming laws and regulations of Texas.”

As a result, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his office filed a court order seeking to have the tribe’s gaming operations shut down, as well as a $10,000 fine for each day the casino remains open.

The casino employs 330 workers, the third-largest employer in Polk County. Jo Ann Battise, chairperson of the Alabama-Coushatta tribal council, said the jobs the casino provides “significantly contribute to the economies of Polk and Tyler Counties, and are vital to the greater Deep East Texas economy.”

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Attorneys for the tribe already filed an appeal.

“Although the tribe has not prevailed in its current litigation at the trial court level, the tribe believes that its legal arguments are sound and is confident that it will prevail before the court of appeals,” said Frederick Petti, an attorney for the tribe.

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