Tribe Takes on Texas in Bingo Parlor Fight

Posted on: May 13, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: May 13, 2017, 06:32h.

A Texas tribe is taking on the might of the state legislature in a bitter legal battle to keep its bingo parlor open for business.

Naskila Entertainment, the unassuming gaming parlor that has become the subject of a bitter legal between tribe and state. (Image: Naskila Gaming)

Just under a year after the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas quietly opened an unassuming gaming center offering electronic bingo about 80 miles northeast of Houston, authorities want it shut down.

It’s the second time the state has threatened a gaming facility run by the tribe. In 2000, the tribe opened a full-scale casino, the Alabama-Coushatta Entertainment System, which was shuttered two years later by court order.

“When we closed in 2002, we lost 300 jobs,” Carlos Bullock, a former tribal council chairman told the Associated Press this week. “That was a difficult time for the tribe and tribal members, people who had begun relying on that income. That’s what makes it so important we do everything legally and correctly because we can’t afford to lose those jobs again.”

Job Creation

The new operation, Naskila Entertainment, has created over 400 jobs, said Bullock, and added $5 million to the economy.

“We are in the fight for our future,” Bullock said. “This is something, a revenue stream, that can help the tribe immensely.”

The tribe argues that it’s their sovereign right to offer class II gaming, which covers games like poker and bingo as opposed to class III which is “casino gaming,” like slots and roulette.

It cites the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA), which permits tribes to operate Class II gaming on their lands provided it is legal in any form anywhere else in the state.

Fluke of Timing

But lawyers for the state point to the 2002 injunction that barred the tribe from offering gaming. They also point to the fact that the Alabama-Coushatta tribe was federally recognized in 1987, a year before IGRA was enacted, at which point they agreed to a prohibition on gaming.

The tribe counters that this was “a fluke of timing” and that the law has now changed. Moreover, it claims that the 2002 injunction barred it from operating class III gaming only, and not the class III machines bingo machines it offers at its facility.  

The tribe also questions why the Kickapoo tribe has been permitted to operate Texas’ only casino, the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, a stone’s throw from the Rio Grande Mexican border.

The Kickapoo have for 20 years offered bingo, poker and electronic pull-tab dispensers designed to look and operate like slot machines. It also dwarfs the Alabama-Coushatta operation offering 3,300 machines to their 350.