Judge Hears Tiguas Contempt Arguments

U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone said she will issue a written ruling whether she will grant the state of Texas' request to shut down two entertainment centers operated by the Tigua Tribe, where the state said illegal gambling occurs. The Tiguas said its third-party sweepstakes games raise money for the tribe.

In El Paso, Texas, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone recently heard arguments regarding the state’s request to shut down the Speaking Rock and Socorro entertainment centers owned by the Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo of El Paso, which the state considers to be illegal gambling establishments. Officials from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office also asked Cardone to find the tribe in contempt for allowing “games of consideration, chance and prizes” and reimburse the state ,000 for an undercover investigation. State officials said the games generate – million annually for the tribe.

Earlier this year, Abbott said the Tiguas have violated an injunction from September 27, 2001, which closed the Speaking Rock, formerly the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo’s Speaking Rock Casino, and prohibited the tribe from operating gambling activities there. At the time officials asked Cardone to stop all business operations at the establishments other than concert ticket sales; to remove all electronic equipment being used as gaming devices; to impose a civil penalty of $500 a day since July 30, 2009; and to order the tribe to pay $58,000 for undercover investigations.

In the tribe’s defense, its attorneys argued the games qualify as “sweepstakes” conducted by third-party national vendors to raise donations for the tribe, but players do not have to make a donation. Tigua Lieutenant Governor Carlos Hisa added that proceeds from the games help fund college tuition, day care, health care and cultural revitalization for the tribe’s 1,700 enrolled members.

Hisa testified besides games, the centers host concerts, NFL football viewing parties, weddings and birthday parties.

Cardone said she will issue a written ruling, but did not give a timeframe.