Livingston tribe fights to keep casino dollars in Texas

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - An empty room and shrinking tribal income is all that is left of the alcohol-free casino on the Alabama Coushatta Tribes' reservation.

"Every year, we run out of money right around June, a little after June.  They say don't get sick after June because you don't get federal funding until October," said Tribal Council Chairman, Carlos Bullock.

Bullock said the tribe is not able to meet simple healthcare needs and government funding just is not enough.   However, he said the casino made life a little better for everyone.

"The jobs that stay in Texas, the local economies that are going to benefit through hotels and restaurants," Bullock said.

The tribe said the Casino used to be filled with tables and gaming devices and a line out the door, and now all they want is the opportunity to get it all back.

Some East Texans would welcome it back.

"I hope it reopens, I really do," said Tami Lowe.

Lowe used to be a regular at the Casino, but now she goes out of state.   She wants the casino to come back and with it the nearly 300 jobs it took from East Texans when it closed seven years ago.

"Well I think it's ridiculous with the way the economy is now, and I think the casino, not only would it produce more jobs for Polk County people, but it would generate more income for the county as well," Lowe said.

The tribe said there is always going to be a market for out of state casinos, but they know there is no shortage of texans willing to gamble.

"They line up on state boarders of Texas because they know that the draw [is] from the Texas market," Bullock said.

He said the problem is they cannot have tourists without anything to attract them.

Bullock said, "We've always looked at gaming as a stepping stone to getting into other areas of economic development."

Without the Casino, a step is missing.  Many bills are being written to allow gaming in Texas, and Bullock said his tribe wants to be included.

"We're going to keep fighting to try to reopen our facility," he said.

However, it may be years, if ever, before the legislature gets Lowe back in line at the casino and tribal members to the doctor after June.

The tribe said since the Casino's closure, there has been 32 percent unemployment on the Reservation.  He said if the Casino re-opens, they will establish responsible gaming programs with a staff trained to recognize the signs of gambling problems.