Big legal win for small tribe over Texas

The population of Texas is nearly 30 million, while the population of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas is about 500. When David topples Goliath, even if it’s in a federal courtroom, it makes news.

The small tribe recently prevailed over the second most populous state in a five-year legal battle over whether the Alabama-Coushatta may operate its Naskila Gaming electronic bingo entertainment facility east of Livingston and north of Houston.

U.S. District Judge Keith Giblin ruled that gaming is allowed under the 1987 Restoration Act.

The Tribe’s triumph

A local news report hailed it as “a major victory” for the tribe, the facility’s hundreds of employees “and the economic stability of the East Texas region.”

Back in 2015, the National Indian Gaming Commission determined that the Tribe was eligible to operate gaming under federal tribal gaming law. A month later, Texas filed its lawsuit to shut Naskila down.

Legally sound

“This ruling affirms that we have a legally sound right to support our Tribe by operating Naskila Gaming,” said Nita Battise, chair of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Tribal Council.

U.S. District Judge Keith Giblin’s decision states that the Tribe’s Restoration Act allows gaming not otherwise prohibited by Texas law. In addition, the judge wrote the Restoration Act precludes Texas from imposing civil or criminal regulations.

Big win for employees, county, too

According to the news report, the facility has about 700 workers, making it the second-largest Polk County employer. It directly and indirectly generates more than $170 million.

In May, the US House of Representatives passed the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Fair Opportunity Act that the federally recognized Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is allowed to offer electronic bingo gaming.

A call for legislative action

However, the Senate hasn’t acted on the bill.

Battise said it’s “remains critical” for the Senate to pass the measure because the state of Texas is expected to appeal the recent court decision.