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Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
Tribal gaming bill filed in Texas House
AUSTIN — Rep. Senfronia Thompson filed a pair of bills March 11 that would legalize gaming on tribal lands and licensed horse and greyhound tracks in Texas effective Dec. 15 if voters approve an accompanying amendment to the Texas Constitution. H.B. 3575 and the proposed constitutional amendment HJR 151 allow gambling on land owned by federally recognized Indian tribes and H.B. 3576 and HJR 152 are virtually identical bills that include horse and greyhound tracks. Previous efforts to legalize tribal gaming have been derailed by conflicts among other factions that want to see gambling at destination resorts and racetracks, according to Carlos Bullock, Tribal Council Chairman for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. “If things go south with the tracks, we have a ‘tribe only’ bill that we can push forward with,” Bullock said. Bullock expects the bill to be assigned to the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures and hearings to begin at the end of the month. The bill puts the gaming operations under the jurisdiction of the Texas Lottery Commission. The commission would establish gaming standards, regulations on equipment and facilities and set fees. The bill sets out requirements for gaming vendor certification, casino managers and employees and requires background checks for all workers. The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe would be required to execute a gaming compact with the State of Texas to meet requirements under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Bullock said the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe would not fall under IGRA as it is currently set out, but would prevent the tribe from having to come back to the legislature if those federal regulations change. Executing a compact would also ensure that the regulations affecting the Alabama-Coushatta tribe were the same as those of the Kickapoo tribe who currently operate a casino in Eagle Pass. The bill grants the Lottery Commission and the Texas Department of Public Safety “unfettered” access to all areas of casino gaming facilities without prior notice to ensure regulations are being followed and to investigation any alleged violations of gaming regulation or other penal laws of the state. The bill requires the tribe to pay 8 percent of the gross gaming revenue to the Comptroller of the State of Texas or local governments for services that benefit the general public. That payment requirement would cease if state law changes to allow the operation of video lottery terminals, slot machines or other casino gaming within 70 miles of tribal lands other than at a place designated in a racetrack’s license issued before Jan. 1, 2011, according to HB 3576. HB 3575 (the Tribe only bill) omits the racetrack provision. Both bills make tampering or manipulation of gaming equipment a third degree felony. The bills also make gambling by individuals under the age of 18 a Class B misdemeanor. Gaming employees who knowingly allow underage individuals to purchase a play of a casino game are also guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. If approved by the Legislature, the measure would go before Texas voters in November.