Reservation gaining support for gaming
Polk County Enterprise, March 2007
LIVINGSTON -- A bill before the Texas Legislature that allows video lottery games could result in more than 400 jobs at the Alabama-Coushatta reservation, a spokeswoman for the tribe told city and county officials last week.
The Polk County Commissioners’ Court approved a resolution supporting the passage of HB 3335 Tuesday morning and the Livingston City Council delayed its support at its meeting Tuesday night.
Sharon Miller, director of the public information office for the reservation, told commissioners the Alabama Coushatta have continued efforts to bring gaming back to Polk County.
The tribe opened a small gaming center in November 2001 and operated for nine months.
The reopening would have a positive economic impact on the county and city, Miller added.
The bill will allow electronically simulated video lottery games at the three Indian reservations in Texas and existing racetracks.
Based on a preliminary review of the introduced version of HB 3335, state and local officials believe the bill will not include casino-style table games such as blackjack.
“We’re highly optimistic, but we do need your support,” Miller said.
About 400 people living in a five-county area worked at the reservation during the short period the gaming center was active and generated extensive revenue, she said.
County Judge John Thompson added that if the measure passes, county officials will have an opportunity to sit down with the tribal council and negotiate a direct financial benefit to the county based on new revenue generated.
Thompson added that there will be indirect benefits from the additional economic activity but there will also be some additional expenses to the county and a previous agreement with the tribal council offsets that expense.
Several other gaming-related bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature, but the tribe has only publicly advocated the passage of HB 3335.
HB 10 amends the Texas Penal Code to provide a defense to prosecution for gaming by federally-recognized Indian tribes conducting operations permitted under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act on its tribal lands. HB 10 also pays the state comptroller 5 percent of the gaming revenue.
The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee passed HB 10 and its companion bill in the Texas Senate is pending in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Sens. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and John Carona (R-Dallas) introduced SJR 45 and SB 1359 to allow gambling at resort casinos and video lottery terminals at racetracks.
That bill would dedicate $1 billion in revenue to higher education financial aid programs.