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Two members of the U.S. Congress representing El Paso County announced the introduction of a bill that they hope will level the playing field for electronic gaming in tribal communities.

The bill known as the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas Equal and Fair Opportunity Act — sponsored by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, and supported by Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio —  would not expand gaming in Texas, but allow both to offer electronic bingo on reservations by ensuring that they’re covered by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Kickapoo Tribe of Texas has been offering bingo and other games, in addition to the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, for more than 20 years.

“Very simply, this bipartisan bill seeks parity,” Escobar said in a news release. “It will create long-overdue opportunity for our tribes and communities, and I will do everything possible to ensure it gets to the President’s desk for his signature.”

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This bill is the latest development in a long fight for fairness in regulatory gaming between tribal and state governments. In 1987, one year before the U.S. Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was approved by Congress, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas and the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, also known as the Tiguas, were federally recognized through the Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act and agreed to a prohibition on gambling.

Despite being federally recognized tribes, their agreement in 1987 is still being upheld despite the state’s legalization of horse and dog track betting as well as the creation of a state lottery. 

In 2016, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas opened Naskila Entertainment, a gaming facility near Livingston, Texas, bringing 561 permanent jobs and almost $140 million to the economy.

“I’m honored to support this bill as it will allow for the Tigua Pueblo to not only recover and rebuild from the pandemic but grow and expand their economy,” Gonzales said. 

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Speaking Rock Entertainment Center is at 122 S. Old Pueblo Road. (Photo: El Paso Times)

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A similar bill was introduced to Congress in 2019, passing the House, it died without a vote in the Senate. 

“I am grateful to Representatives Escobar and Gonzales for their leadership to reintroduce this critically important bill, which will provide us with true tribal sovereignty and the ability to best take care of our people, especially our elders and our children,” said Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo Governor Michael Silvas. “Equally important, this legislation will allow us to foster economic development and job growth for El Paso and West Texas. We hope the House of Representatives and Senate will soon send this bill to the President to sign.”

For the Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas, this bill would deliver fairness and some economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This legislation has proven to have bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives and we look forward to again working with members of both parties to protect the nearly 2,000 Texas jobs that Congresswoman Escobar’s legislation would save,” Nita Battise, chair of the Tribal Council for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, said.

Read or Share this story: https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/local/el-paso/2021/04/05/reps-veronica-escobar-tony-gonzales-fair-tribal-gaming-bill-texas-tigua/7091081002/