Federal agency green-lights bingo at Alabama-Coushatta reservati - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Federal agency green-lights bingo at Alabama-Coushatta reservation

(KTRE Staff) (KTRE Staff)
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
(KTRE Staff) (KTRE Staff)
(KTRE Staff) (KTRE Staff)
POLK COUNTY, TX (KTRE) -

The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) in coordination with the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) has affirmed the right of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas to operate a Class II gaming facility on tribal lands pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

It was once a booming bingo spot on the Alabama-Coushatta tribe reservation.

"When we were opened, we had over 300 jobs. Three-hundred jobs here are a big boost to this economy," said Carlos Bullock, the tribe's spokesman. 

It ran in the early 2000's. Bullock said it was an asset to the tribe along with surrounding counties.

"We took people off of welfare and government assistance and gave them those opportunities," Bullock said. 

Over a decade ago it was closed. The Alamba-Coushatta tribe would spend those years striving to earn their rights back to operate the class II gaming facility. They were even willing to forgo 270 million dollars from the federal government in exchange for the right to run the bingo hall once more. 

That large amount was suggested by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims as compensation for the tribe's past losses and trespassing damages.

"Not a dollar has been paid by congress from the federal court of claims recommendation," Bullock said. 

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe has sought approval at the state and federal level since the closure of the Tribe’s Entertainment Center in 2002. This approval provides clarification that the Tribe is able to provide Class II games pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.  In addition, the National Indian Gaming Commission will provide regulatory oversight to the Tribe’s Class II gaming facility.

This was welcome news for the East Texas group. Bullock said the community is in need of the economic venture. 

"The tribe is in a deficit and federal funding is on a decline, and we do rely on a lot of federal funding for our programs," Bullock said. 

"As far as economic development, it would certainly bring in visitors," said Sydney Murphy, Polk County Judge. 

Bullock said the process was trying. 

"There were a lot of sleepness nights. There were times where it felt like we needed to get up and pursue something else," Bullock said. 

The tiered classification system for gaming applies only to Indian gaming regulated by the federal government’s National Indian Gaming Commission.  Generally, Class I is considered traditional and ceremonial activities, Class II typically includes bingo and electronically aided versions of bingo, and Class III refers to casino style gaming with agreements negotiated with the State of jurisdiction.

“Past Tribal Councils have worked hard to get where we are today with this approval. The Tribe’s perseverance has paid off.  It is a testament to the dedication and support of our Tribal Members that helped accomplish such a major milestone in our tribal history.  A Class II facility will allow the Tribe to better address the needs and functions of the Tribal government, and take care of our people,” said Nita Battise, Tribal Chairperson of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe.

“Not only will it benefit the Tribe, it will benefit the entire region in southeast Texas because an entertainment business attracts visitors to the region and we will be able to provide employment in the area.” Battise added.

The affirmation now gives Alabama-Coushatta the ability to bring enough chips to the table and make the tribe self-sufficient.

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