25,000 Texans Urge State Leaders to Save Naskila Gaming

(LIVINGSTON, TX) — Texans have sent more than 25,000 letters over the past year asking some of the state’s top elected officials to support 700 East Texas jobs tied to Naskila Gaming.

Naskila Gaming is the electronic bingo facility operated by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas near Livingston. For years, Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn have worked to shut down Naskila — a decision that would have a devastating economic impact on East Texas.

Since last fall, more than 25,000 visitors to Naskila have sent letters to Abbott or Cornyn, pleading with them to support federal legislation that would keep the facility open. Both Abbott and Cornyn have spoken out against that federal legislation — putting Naskila’s jobs in peril.

“The people of Texas expect our Governor to protect Texas jobs, but that’s not what Governor Abbott is doing,” said Nita Battise, Chair of the Tribal Council of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. “Governor Abbott and Senator Cornyn could really help the economy of East Texas by supporting the employees of Naskila Gaming. Instead, they have put our region at risk of serious economic harm, and the thousands of Texans who visit Naskila each week are taking notice.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. House gave bipartisan approval to H.R. 2208, which would clarify that Naskila Gaming is regulated by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). By putting Naskila under IGRA, the federal government would effectively stop the State of Texas’ ongoing effort in court to shut down Naskila and an electronic bingo facility operated by the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Tribe in El Paso.

The U.S. House passed similar legislation in 2020, but the U.S. Senate failed to act on the bill after Abbott and Cornyn voiced opposition to it. The two have again spoken out against H.R. 2208 as it awaits Senate action. Without H.R. 2208’s passage into law, the state’s ongoing legal action could eventually force the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe to close Naskila and put its employees out of work.

Despite the intransigence of Abbott and Cornyn, Naskila Gaming has strong and bipartisan support throughout East Texas. More than 70 civic and business groups have formally approved statements in support of Naskila. In addition, Naskila visitors have eagerly signed letters in recent months calling on Abbott and Cornyn to reverse their opposition.

Texans are taking note of Abbott’s opposition as he accelerates his 2022 campaign for re-election.

“If Governor Abbott has his way, hundreds of East Texans will lose their jobs,” Chairwoman Battise said. “The thousands of letters that have been sent to him demonstrate the grassroots support that Naskila enjoys, and we ask that he please listen to these Texans. Protecting jobs should be one of a Governor’s highest priorities. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with Governor Abbott and Senator Cornyn to discuss this issue, but so far, they have not answered our repeated requests for meetings.”

Naskila Gaming is the second-largest employer in Polk County. According to a 2020 study by the Texas Forest Country Partnership, Naskila provides a $170 million annual economic benefit to East Texas.

August 2021