Doubling Down: Texas and Casino Gambling

The Alabama-Coushatta want their casino back. The Texas horse tracks say betting on races isn’t enough. Both see expanded gambling in the state as their ticket to solvency.

But now, with meager revenues and looming sequestration cuts — Williams says 8-10 percent of the tribe's budget will likely be axed as a result of falling federal funding — the Head Start program, one of the oldest in the nation and one of the jewels of the tribe's infrastructure, looks to take a large hit. "We used to be able to ask for the things we would need," says Billie Sue Williams, the program's director. "But with the budget we have, we now have to think twice."

Kyle Williams, as it stands, was a product of this Head Start program some 30 years ago. And he now runs a nation. And he's pushing for legislation that will be, he says, a lifesaver. He stands tall — while a tribal boy with a gap-tooth smile, a black girl with pigtails and a Hispanic boy in a pink Superman cape squeal past his legs — and says that there's little that can help more than, of all things, gambling.

It's the same as the rhetoric from those in the equine industry. It's similar to the rhetoric of those who want to see public schools buoyed without a consequent tax hike. And if polls are to be believed, it's an idea that nearly nine in ten Texans would like to decide on for themselves. It's rhetoric that the state has heard for a decade and that might finally catch on.

Alabama-Coushatta Chairman Kyle Williams has helped steer the tribe's efforts to reclaim the gaming it once maintained, lobbying legislators in both Austin and Washington.
Daniel Kramer
Alabama-Coushatta Chairman Kyle Williams has helped steer the tribe's efforts to reclaim the gaming it once maintained, lobbying legislators in both Austin and Washington.
In 2001, the Alabama-Coushatta opened an entertainment complex with a poker table, a blackjack table and 300 slots, bringing the tribe 
$1 million per month. The casino was forced to close in 2002.
Courtesy of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas
In 2001, the Alabama-Coushatta opened an entertainment complex with a poker table, a blackjack table and 300 slots, bringing the tribe $1 million per month. The casino was forced to close in 2002.

"Most Texans I know don't need guidance from any organization to figure out how they think and what they want to do with their money," says Montford. "I'll fight to the bitter end to let others campaign against it, but let's not let a bunch of organizations that feel like they're smarter decide." And now that we're here, in 2013, with decades of attempts and momentum pitching forward, Montford is blunt. "I'm in it for the long haul. But I kind of like the odds."

Casey.michel@houstonpress.com

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