US House of Representatives Approve Texas Tribal Gaming Measure
The US House of Representatives has unanimously approved a measure that if eventually becomes law, affirms the rights of two Texas-based tribal nations to operate Class II gaming facilities within the state.
The two tribal nations, the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta tribes, have been engaged in long battles with the state of Texas over the right to operate gaming facilities. The Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, also known as the Tiguas, attempted to open a casino near El Paso in west Texas in 1993, only to have it forcibly shut down by state authorities. The Ysleta Del Sur Pueblos, with the backing of the US Department of the Interior, has pursued its claimed rights in legal and legislative venues ever since.
The Alabama-Coushatta nation has operated a venue near Livingston since 2016, but that has come under state-level attack as well. The Alabama-Coushattas have been fined $10,000 daily — which they’ve declined to pay — for an aggregate fine approaching $10 million.
The bill unanimously approved by the US House, H.R. 759, titled “The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas Equal and Fair Opportunity Settlement Act,” would approve only bingo as a Class II game offering. The bill was sponsored by Texas US Representatives Will Hurd and Brian Babin, and with its House passage now moves on to US Senate consideration.
Michael Silvas, Governor of the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, said, “The people of the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo are grateful to Congressman Hurd for his commitment to our rights for sovereignty and self determination. We are proud to be an economic engine for El Paso, and we thank Congressman Hurd for his hard work to allow us to continue to support our community.”
Cecelia Flores, the Tribal Council Chairwoman for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, said, “I am pleased House Resolution 759 unanimously passed the United States House of Representatives. This would not have happened without the steadfast leadership provided by both Congressmen Brian Babin and Will Hurd, whose tireless efforts made it possible.”
Rep. Hurd also issued a statement noting his bill’s approval, and in remarks before the unanimous vote, offered the following:
H.R. 759 is not about whether one agrees or disagrees with gambling. This bill isn’t about gambling. It’s about letting two tribes in two of Texas’ most economically distressed zones engage in what every other tribe in America engages in.
This bill would allow these two tribes in Texas to do bingo. That’s it. Not blackjack. Not poker. Not Craps. Just Bingo.
For too long, the Alabama Coushatta and Tigua tribes have been prevented from achieving self-sufficiency. It is time we right this wrong.
Though the bill technically would grant Class II gaming rights to just the two specified Texas tribes, the likelihood is that if passed, many more Texas-based tribal nations would seek to open Class II gaming facilities. Texas remains one of the most anti-gambling of all US states, with publicly available options limited to a couple of facilities such as that Alabama-Coushatta’s, along with a handful of semi-private poker rooms that have themselves been subject to ongoing enforcement actions. Several poker-legalization bills, including one for electronic poker tables, have been introduced in Texas in previous years, but none have made a serious run at becoming law.
Texas has no true casinos offering slot machines or traditional table games, though each day, tens of thousands of Texas gamblers can be found at casino venues in neighboring states. A legislative fight for such casinos in the state likely remains several years down the road.