Could the Alabama-Coushatta Be Forced to Close Their Just-Opened Casino Again?

The Alabama-Coushatta's Naskila Entertainment Center has been up and running since the beginning of June without a word of reproach from the state authorities. However, a recent decision from a federal judge in Texas could open the door to new legal problems for the Alabama-Coushatta, despite the fact that the ruling has nothing directly to do with their tribe.

The tribe has been fighting to reopen its casino, located on the reservation just outside of Livingston, ever since the state forced them to close back in 2001. The state has maintained the tribe is bound to follow state gaming laws while tribal members insist they are governed by federal law and thus allowed to have gaming on reservation lands. Ultimately, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Texas and that was the end of the story for more than 14 years. 

Last fall the Alabama-Coushatta finally had some success when the Department of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Association decided the Alabama-Coushatta (along with the Tigua located on a reservation near El Paso) have the right to offer bingo and electronic bingo on their reservation.

When the state didn't respond to the National Indian Gaming Association pronouncement, the tribe assumed Texas officials had accepted the decision and went about getting the casino ready to open its doors after more than a decade. The Naskila Entertainment Center opened on June 2. 

However, at about the same time U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone ruled against the Tigua tribe's request to drop a court ordered injunction against gaming on the Tigua reservation, disregarding the decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission last fall. 

Cardone's ruling doesn't acknowledge the National Indian Gaming Association decision that the Alabama-Coushatta are using as the legal reason they can reopen. On top of that, her decision lines up with the legal stance taken by the Texas Attorney General's Office that tribes can't have reservation casinos in Texas. Even though the Alabama-Coushatta aren't named in the lawsuit or directly affected by Cardone's decision, state officials could still try and use the federal court decision to try and close the newly reopened casino in Livingston, according to World Casino News.

The thing is, the tribe has been waiting for this casino for more than a decade and right now there are more than 300 gleaming new bingo machines waiting for players to try their luck inside the Naskila Entertainment Center. Employees are due to start collecting their first paychecks and the entire reservation is buzzing with new energy, as we've previously reported. It's hard to imagine they'd just close their doors and let the casino go dark again. 

We've asked Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton's Office if he'll be weighing in on the Alabama-Coushatta reopening. Spokeswoman Teresa Farfan stated via email that his office would "not be issuing a comment or statement on this matter."
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray