Naskila is an electronic bingo facility located on the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas reservation near Livingston, Texas. It has been open since 2016 and generates an estimated $170 million per year in economic activity for the East Texas region.
The electronic Bingo played at Naskila is simply the game commonly known as Bingo, in which a common ball draw is shared by multiple players and compared to each player’s Bingo cards to determine which player has won by covering a pre-determined bingo pattern. The entertaining game displays (spinning reels, wheels, etc.) do not influence the actual outcome or play of the game and are for entertainment purposes only.
Naskila Gaming is the second-largest employer in Polk County, Texas. Some 700 jobs are tied directly or indirectly to Naskila, and 70 percent of Naskila employees are non-tribal.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas is a federally recognized Indian Tribe and gaming that takes place on tribal lands is governed by federal law. Specifically, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) governs tribal gaming throughout the United States. Unfortunately, in 1994 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is not covered under IGRA, but gaming occurring on the Tribe’s land is governed by the Tribe’s Restoration Act.
That Act allows the Tribe to play games permitted under Texas law and prohibits Texas from exercising any civil or criminal regulatory authority over that gaming.
Because Texas permits the playing of bingo, including with electronic enhancements, the Tribe believes it can offer electronic bingo with any oversight or regulation by Texas. The Texas Attorney General disagrees with that position and argues that may only play bingo in strict conformance with Texas bingo regulations. The Tribe and Texas have been litigating this matter in federal court since 2016.
What are the different classes of gaming?
- Class I gaming includes social games played for prizes of minimal value or traditional Indian games engaged in as part of tribal ceremonies. Regulation of Class I gaming is within the exclusive control of tribes.
- Class II gaming includes bingo, including electronic bingo, and non-house banked card games. Tribes can only offer such gaming if the state in which a tribe is located permits such gaming for any purpose by any person. Tribes and the federal government share control over Class II gaming.
- Class III gaming refers to high-stakes gaming such as roulette, craps, slot machines, and other casino style games. Tribes can only offer Class III games under a tribal-state gaming compact, which is an agreement between a tribe and the state regarding what games can be played and how such gaming should be regulated. In the absence of gaming compact, tribes may not offer Class III gaming.
Why isn’t the State trying to shut down the Kickapoo Tribe’s electronic Bingo facility?
The Act of Congress that restored the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ federal recognition was passed during a national debate regarding Indian Gaming and the United States Supreme Court’s decision in California v. Cabazon that found that tribes could game on their lands without regulation in states where gaming was regulated and not prohibited. As a result, Congress included language in the Tribe’s Restoration Act that was designed to codify the holding in Cabazon for the Tribe as Congress worked to pass the IGRA, legislation based on the Cabazon decision.
Unfortunately, the Fifth Circuit ignored Congressional intent and concluded the Tribe was not covered under IGRA.
The Kickapoo Tribe was recognized as a federal Tribe in 1985, prior to Indian gaming becoming an issue. Accordingly, the Kickapoo’s Recognition Act is silent as to gaming and it is undisputed that the Tribe can game under IGRA.
Is electronic bingo offered anywhere else in Texas?
Yes. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo near El Paso is governed under the same federal law as the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and also offers electronic bingo. The state is trying to shut down that facility as well.
Meanwhile, the Kickapoo Tribe near the Texas-Mexico border is governed under IGRA and operates electronic bingo. It is not included in the state’s efforts to shut down the other facilities. We believe these three tribes should be treated the same and that all three should be allowed to offer electronic bingo. Regulating all three under IGRA would achieve this goal.
How can policymakers keep Naskila open?
Led by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill in 2019 saying the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe can offer gaming under IGRA. This, effectively, would have stopped the state’s efforts to close Naskila. However, Governor Greg Abbott and Senator John Cornyn spoke out against this bill and it never moved forward in the U.S. Senate before the congressional session expired at the end of 2020.
It is unclear why the State is opposing Naskila. Bingo is legal in Texas and the Kickapoo Tribe in Eagle Pass has offered the same type of gaming on its lands since 1996 without objection from Texas. In other words, Texas is inexplicably opposing the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe’s effort to create jobs and grow the economy of an economically depressed area of the State by playing a game that is legal in Texas.
Does the community support Naskila?
More than 70 community, civic and business groups have approved resolutions calling on the U.S. Congress to ensure Naskila stays open.
How can I help keep Naskila open?
Contact Governor Greg Abbott, Senator John Cornyn, and Senator Ted Cruz. Tell them you believe it is essential to keep Naskila Gaming open to support the Texas economy and maintain 700 jobs in East Texas.