Legislative bill filed requiring state gaming compact with governor, 3 Texas tribes

Legislative bill filed requiring state gaming compact with governor, 3 Texas tribes
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 6:19 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2023 at 12:02 AM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - A bill was filed that would require a state gaming compact between the governor and three Texas tribes; one of those tribes is in Deep East Texas.

Rep. Mary Gonzalez of El Paso filed legislation HJR 156 proposing a state constitutional amendment requiring Governor Greg Abbott to enter into gaming compacts with three federally recognized tribes in regard to their gaming facilities.

These tribes are The Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Deep East Texas, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, and Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo.

Ronnie Thomas serves as treasurer of the Alabama-Coushatta council and said this would benefit the tribe.

“We want to be on par with the other gaming entities who are trying to have legislation passed in this 2023 legislative session,“ Thomas said.

Each of these tribes operate their own gaming facilities with electronic bingo. The Alabama-Coushatta tribe’s facility opened in 2016. Since then, they have been fighting with the state to stay open.

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Alabama-Coushatta and Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo tribes could continue to operate, and the state dropped its case.

The proposed compact would require the governor to regulate all tribal gaming facilities the same as under federal law and protect and continue to include the tribes in the conversation in regard to expanding gambling legality in the state.

“We are a sovereign nation with that right to conduct class-two gaming activities; we just want to protect our own interest and be on the same playing field as the destination resorts,” Thomas said.

Gonzalez said in a statement, “These indigenous communities are very important to the life and culture of our state and to the economic success of their regions. It’s important that we treat these communities with fairness and respect as they go about the work of providing for themselves.”

Thomas said the gaming facility, since being open, has provided additional revenue for the scholarships they offer, allowing them to build housing and upgrade members’ healthcare.

“All in all it’s a boon, not only for the tribe, but to the Deep East Texas region,” Thomas said.

The proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution would have to be approved by two-thirds of the Texas house and senate, then approved by a majority of voters to take effect.