Kickapoos win feds’ OK to add gambling
Polk County Enterprise, June 2007
EAGLE PASS -- The Traditional Kickapoo Tribe of Texas scored a minor victory last week in its 12-year battle to expand gambling at the remote Eagle Pass reservation, wire news reports reported Friday.
The U.S. Department of Interior gave preliminary approval of the Kickapoos’ request to offer a number of casino-style table stakes games.
The State of Texas almost immediately filed a lawsuit questioning the federal agency’s rules.
Tribal officials in many of the 28 states that currently allow tribal gaming say the State of Texas’ hostile stand against gambling on the state’s reservations poses a conflict of interest since the state operates a lottery and allows parimutuel betting on horses and dogs.
Several of the bills that were left pending at the close of the 80th session of the Texas Legislature would have allowed video eight-liner style games on licensed racetracks and recognized Indian reservations, but a lack of consensus among the various racetracks killed those measures.
H.B. 10 by Rep. Norma Chavez of El Paso would have provided a criminal defense to tribal officials who conducted gaming activities on the reservation, but it was defeated when the bill received a rare tie vote on the House floor.
The bill even failed to draw an aye vote from the two House members whose districts include the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ reservation near Livingston.
Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, voted against the measure and House officials Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin, was listed as present, not voting.
Members of the Tribal Council that oversees the Alabama-Coushatta tribe were still weighing the possible local impact of Friday’s reports as of press deadline.
The Alabama-Coushattas opened a small gaming center in November 2001 and it was closed nine months later by then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn.
The gaming center employed about 400 people from the region surrounding the reservation.
The Eagle Pass tribe was recognized by a different federal law than the other Texas tribes. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the tribe can offer any game that is permitted in the state.
The Kickapoos currently offer poker and bingo. The ringing bells and flashing lights on the Eagle Pass area machines resemble Vegas-style slot machines, but players are competing against each other rather than the machine.
In 1995, the Kickapoo tried to negotiate a contract to open a casino, but then Gov. George W. Bush and his general counsel, Alberto Gonzales disapproved.
A lawsuit filed by the Kickapoo tribe was dismissed because the state claimed immunity against being sued.
Interior officials then rewrote department rules which are now being challenged.