The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’s gaming operation is once again facing a federal court challenge after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a request to have the tribe held in contempt of court for violating a 2002 court order.
The tribe first opened a gaming operation in 2001 but that was successfully challenged by the attorney general’s office and a federal court issued an order in 2002 to shut it down.
The attorney general’s office is now contending that when the tribe opened its Naskila Entertainment facility in June, it was in violation of the 2002 court order. The motion for a contempt of court ruling seeks a fine of $10,000 for each day the gaming center is in operation.
The Tribe opened the Naskila Entertainment facility on the reservation near Livingston offering electronic bingo games after obtaining a federal Class II license earlier this year from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).
Class II licenses allow Native American tribes to operate bingo and electronic bingo games on reservation lands. Class III licenses allow tribes to operate a full casino with a variety of other games such as blackjack, roulette and poker.
According to federal court documents, an evidentiary hearing and oral arguments on the matter will be heard before Federal Magistrate Keith Giblin on March 29, 2017 in the Jack Brooks Federal Building in Beaumont. If necessary, a non-jury trial will be held before the magistrate on June 20, 2017, in Beaumont.
Jo Ann Battise, chairperson of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council, issued a statement this week citing the license issued by the NIGC as the legal basis for the opening of the Naskila Entertainment facility.
“The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is operating legally under authority granted by the National Indian Gaming Commission, the federal agency created by Congress to regulate Indian gaming. Before the Tribe could offer bingo under federal law, it was required to seek and obtain authorization to offer such gaming from the NIGC,” she stated.
She noted that the alcohol-free gaming operation is regulated by the NIGC and is meeting the federal requirements.
“We know that we are operating on sound legal footing,” she added.
Battise also noted that since the facility opened in June, it has created 200 jobs. A total of 185 of those positions are held by Polk County residents with well over half of those being nontribal members.
“In summary, Naskila Gaming produces revenue to provide services to our elders, housing, education, and medical services to our tribal members. Further, Naskila Gaming creates jobs and enhances the economic development opportunities for everyone in our surrounding counties. For the benefit of our Tribe and Deep East Texas, we are open, we have the legal right to be open, and we will remain open,” she added.