Public urges Senate to save East Texas jobs

Patrons at Naskila Gaming in Polk County play electronic games. A legal battle is underway regarding Naskila Gaming and local leaders are fighting to stop Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to close the gaming center.

More than 7,500 visitors to Naskila Gaming have sent letters to Texas’ U.S. senators over the last month urging them to save Naskila’s electronic bingo facility near Livingston.

Patrons have signed letters while visiting Naskila since it reopened Sept. 10 with new public-health safeguards in place. The letters urge Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to help pass H.R. 759, a bill that would effectively stop Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to close Naskila down. The U.S. House unanimously passed H.R. 759, authored by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, more than a year ago, but Cornyn has asked fellow senators not to move forward with the bill.

Naskila, which is operated by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, has also received strong support from community and business groups. More than 70 groups — including county commissioner courts, local Republican parties and chambers of commerce — have approved resolutions or other statements of support for keeping Naskila open.

A legal battle is underway regarding Naskila Gaming in Polk County. Local leaders are fighting to stop Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to close the gaming center.

“Texans strongly support Naskila Gaming,” said Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council Chairwoman Cecilia Flores. “Elected officials and business groups understand that we provide hundreds of jobs in this region and take good care of our employees. People who visit Naskila cannot understand why the state is trying to shut us down and put hundreds of people out of work when unemployment is already too high.”

Naskila is responsible for 700 direct and indirect jobs in East Texas and a recent study estimated that Naskila generates $170 million in annual economic activity for the region. More than 1 million people visit the facility per year. Even when closed for several months during the pandemic, Naskila continued to provide pay and benefits for its employees.

Another 1,000 jobs are tied to the electronic bingo facility operated by Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso. Paxton is also trying to shut that facility down. However, he is not trying to shut down electronic bingo on the Kickapoo tribal land in Eagle Pass, near the Texas-Mexico border.

“If the economy along the border gets to benefit from electronic bingo, why not the economy of East Texas?” Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy, a Republican, wrote in a recent opinion column. “Why should our region and our citizens get the short end of the stick?”

HR 759 would ensure that the facilities in Livingston and El Paso are governed by the same federal law as the Kickapoo facility.

In August, 19 members of the U.S. House who represent Texas — ten Republicans and nine Democrats — sent Cornyn a letter urging him to support H.R. 759. “Rather than spend untold sums on legal fees and litigation, costing the State of Texas millions of dollars, we believe we could better enact our time and resources by enacting H.R. 759, which would create an economic boost to two hard hit areas of the state with no cost to the taxpayer,” the congressional letter said.

Local elected officials and business groups also continue to show strong support for Naskila and its positive economic impact on East Texas. 

“It doesn’t make a bit of sense that we would have to be closed down, lose this business, especially during a COVID pandemic, when there’s so many people out of work. And these are not just fly by night jobs,” Babin recently told KTRE. “These are good jobs, with benefits, that pay well. I’ve talked with a lot of these people. They’re written letters thanking me for writing this legislation.”

The following civic and business groups have approved resolutions and letters support H.R. 759 and Naskila Gaming:

  • Polk County Commissioners Court
  • Polk County Chamber of Commerce 
  • Polk County Republican Party
  • Polk County Higher Education and Technology Foundation
  • Tyler County Commissioners Court
  • Tyler County Chamber of Commerce 
  • Tyler County Hospital Board
  • DETCOG- Deep East Texas Council of Government
  • Texas Forest Country Partnership
  • Hardin County Commissioners Court
  • Walker County Commissioners Court
  • San Jacinto County Commissioners Court
  • San Jacinto County Republican Party 
  • Jefferson County Commissioners Court 
  • Trinity County Commissioners Court
  • Liberty County Commissioners Court
  • Chambers County Commissioners Court 
  • Chambers County Republican Party 
  • Orange County Commissioners Court
  • Jasper County Commissioners Court
  • Jasper Economic Development Co.
  • Newton County Commissioners Court
  • Sabine County Commissioners Court
  • Cherokee County Commissioners Court 
  • Madison County Commissioners Court
  • Shelby County Commissioners Court
  • San Augustine County Commissioners Court
  • Houston County Commissioners Court
  • Harrison County Commissioners Court 
  • Falls County Commissioners Court
  • Johnson County Commissioners Court 
  • The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce
  • Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce 
  • Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 
  • Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce
  • Lufkin/Angelina Chamber of Commerce
  • Cleveland Chamber of Commerce
  • Huntsville Chamber of Commerce 
  • Livingston City Council 
  • Huntsville City Council
  • Woodville City Council 
  • Cleveland City Council 
  • Shepard City Council 
  • Splendora City Council 
  • Onalaska City Council 
  • Ivanhoe City Council 
  • Goodrich City Council 
  • San Augustine City Council 
  • Lovelady City Council
  • New Waverly City Council 
  • Corrigan City Council 
  • Galveston Maritime Business Association 
  • Lake Travis Republican Party 
  • Bell County Republican Party 
  • Hopkins County Republican Party 
  • Hays County Republican Party 

Additional Support

  • National Congress of American Indians
  • All Pueblo Council of Governors 
  • USET- United South and Eastern Tribes, INC.
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial 
  • Polk County VFW Post #8568
  • Southern News Group- Houston 
  • Escapees RV Club- Livingston
  • Texas Familias Council 
  • Church Street Financial Livingston, Texas 
  • Livingston Rotary Club
  • Onalaska Police Department 
  • Ivanhoe City Marshal’s Office
  • Eastex Telephone Co.
  • C.T Jones Insurance Co.
  • Pedigo, Furniture 
  • Prestige Oyster Inc. 

1 COMMENT

  1. This is a great place to go! I do not understand why Naskila cannot stay open. There are other casinos in Texas on reservations that have been open for years, why not Naskila? Kepp the letters coming to the state!

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