3/26/2001 (AP) LIVINGSTON, Texas — Legislation pending in the Texas Legislature would legalize gambling on Texas’ three federally recognized Indian reservations, opening the door to casinos on the Alabama-Coushatta reservation an hour north of Houston.
Tribal Council member Kevin Battise said the Alabama-Coushattas are ready to “get in the game.”
“We want to provide for the welfare of our people. All the social services are severely underfunded on our reservation,” Battise told the Houston Chronicle.
Texas’ two other tribes have gambling already.
Tigua Indians — also known as the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribe — operate the Speaking Rock Casino in El Paso, but have been sued in federal court by Texas Attorney General John Cornyn. He says the tribe’s 1987 recognition agreement with the state requires them to follow Texas law, which prohibits casino gambling. The Alabama-Coushattas fear a similar lawsuit.
The Kickapoos, who operate the Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass, were not sued because they did not sign an agreement with the state.
A proposed amendment to the Texas penal code would settle the legal dispute between Texas and the Tiguas.
“Texas … doesn’t have a shiny record on relations between Native Americans and the state,” Tigua tribal spokesman Marc Schwartz said. “This particular bill will do a lot to repair relations.”
Eight of the 31 Senators have signed on as co-sponsors of Senate Bill 253. One of them, Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, said the bill simply is an attempt to bring state law in line with federal.
“Some people say it will open the door (to gambling). I say it will provide them with an opportunity,” Barrientos said. “If the Native Americans want to do that after all our country has put them through, then by golly, let them.”
Of the 150 House members, nine are co-sponsors of the bill.