The measure to clarify Indian gaming laws is now awaiting action by the Senate after being approved in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas Equal and Fair Opportunity Settlement Act was passed on July 24 after a 40-minute debate.
House Resolution 759 protects the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe’s right, under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, to offer electronic bingo at its Naskila Gaming facility on their reservation. The legislation provides the same protections for the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is the federal law that regulates Indian gaming throughout the United States.
“We are extremely grateful that (Texas Republican) Reps. (Brian) Babin and Will Hurd devoted their time and efforts to see success in the House,” Cecilia Flores, the Tribe’s chairwoman, said. “We are very pleased that our outreach and regional support contributed to the successful passing of HR 759.”
She hopes the Tribe will see the same level of support from the Texas senators as the bill is being considered currently, she said. Republican Sen. John Cornyn told Flores directly that if the bill passed in the House it would have his support in the Senate, she said.
The tribe has not yet met with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, and does not know if he will support the bill, she said.
“If we’re not successful in getting the bill passed into law, we will have to go back to appeal with the Supreme Court,” she said. “If the Supreme Court won’t hear it, then we’ll go back to the district court to argue our case.”
If unsuccessful, the Tribe may also consider attempting to get another piece of legislation passed during the next congressional session.
However, Flores said she remains hopeful that politicians will be more attuned to the situation in East Texas.
The gaming facility offers 400-plus jobs in East Texas and has garnered support from many organizations and municipalities, including the city of Lufkin, the Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce and the Deep East Texas Council of Governments.
The Tribe is also trying to foster a relationship with Gov. Greg Abbott and get him to the reservation to tour the facility, Flores said. He was amenable to the idea of a tour, and Flores hopes he decides to come out to see what the facility offers, she said.