WEEKLY FEATURE: Texas Lawmaker Proposes Tribal Gaming Compacts

Texas state Rep. Mary Gonzalez (l.) is sponsoring a bill that would require the governor to negotiate Class III gaming compacts with three tribes that currently offer electronic bingo at their casinos.

WEEKLY FEATURE: Texas Lawmaker Proposes Tribal Gaming Compacts

Texas state Rep. Mary Gonzalez recently filed HJR 156, a joint resolution requiring Governor Greg Abbott to enter into Class III tribal gaming compacts with the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe and Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo.

The proposed compacts would require the governor to extend federal regulations to tribal gaming facilities and continue to include the tribes in the conversation in regard to expanding gambling legality in the state.

In a statement, Gonzalez said, “These indigenous communities are very important to the life and culture of our state and to the economic success of their regions. It’s important that we treat these communities with fairness and respect as they go about the work of providing for themselves.”

Alabama-Coushatta Council Treasurer Ronnie Thomas added, “We want to be on par with the other gaming entities who are trying to have legislation passed in this 2023 legislative session. We are a sovereign nation with that right to conduct Class II gaming activities and we just want to protect our own interest and be on the same playing field as the destination resorts.”

All three tribes operate gaming facilities that offer electronic bingo. The Kickapoo Tribe also offers limited non-banked casino card games. The bill authorizes the three tribes to sue the state if the governor does not negotiate the compacts in good faith.

HJR 156 would amend the state constitution and would require approval by two-thirds of both the House and Senate and a simple majority of statewide voters in the November 2023 election.

After the Alabama-Coushatta’s Naskila Gaming casino opened in 2016, the state attempted to shut it down. However, in 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Alabama-Coushatta and Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo tribes could continue to operate their casinos. The state subsequently dropped its case.

Thomas said the Alabama-Coushatta’s casino gaming facility provides additional revenue for scholarships, housing and healthcare for members.

“All in all, it’s a boon, not only for the tribe, but to the Deep East Texas region,” Thomas said.

The bill sits in the House State Affairs Committee, which has not yet scheduled a hearing.