Alabama-Coushatta leaders encouraged by legislation allowing gaming on tribal lands

Alabama-Coushatta leaders encouraged by legislation allowing gaming on tribal lands
Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 1:21 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 30, 2021 at 11:42 PM CDT

POLK COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Naskila Gaming on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation outside Livingston is recovering from shutdowns during the pandemic. Operators reopened, but it will take a Congressional move to keep the gaming center open on a permanent basis.

“Welcome. Come on in. Welcome,” greets Nita Battise, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council chair to incoming customers.

Inside a growing number of patrons are returning to the electronic bingo games after interruptions during the pandemic.

Players long for a win. So does Battise, not on the gaming floor, but in Washington D.C.

“I think we’ve gone thru three or four bills. And the most recent one is HR 759,” recalled Battise about the bill that never made it to the Senate floor.

HR 2208 is in Senate committee now. It will allow two Texas tribes, one in far west Texas and the other in Deep East Texas to continue gaming operations on their lands.

In May, overwhelming bi-partisan support moved the bill to Senate committee. Previous bills died in that spot, largely due to opposing Texas U.S. senators.

“In all actuality, it’s the governor. Governor Abbott,” said Battise matter-of-frankly.

The state of Texas argues tribal gaming should stop because it’s prohibited in Texas.

Battise strongest argument is tribal gaming operations should be controlled by federal statute.

“We need to start the process of re-educating what it means to be a sovereign nation, number one.”

And utilize public support.

“We are encouraging our Naskila patrons to sign this letter which is addressed to Governor Abbott,” said Battise in front stacks of form letters at the gaming center’s entrance.

Naskila Gaming supports 700 jobs in Deep East Texas and brings in $170-million in revenue. One reason why so many county governments throughout Deep East Texas have passed resolutions in support of Naskila Gaming’s future.”

They agree with Battise. The bright lights and ringing bells

represent revenue for education to medical care.

“It covers all aspects of our goal as tribal council to strengthen our economic development,” explained Battise. “We cannot move forward on any projects. We cannot make commitments.”

And what if the legislation fails once again?

“That’s a very emotional question,” shared Battise.

She refers to a sense of responsibility to her great grandfather and others who met with President Coolidge to strengthen the rights of the Alabama Coushatta.

“We will keep fighting to make this happen. To make this happen”

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