East Texans will be eager to hear Monday why Governor Greg Abbott wants to put hundreds of their neighbors out of work as the region struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abbott is giving a virtual address to the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce at 12:50 p.m. Monday. Many hope he will address the state’s longstanding effort to shut down Naskila Gaming, the electronic bingo facility operated by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. Naskila, the second-largest employer in Polk County, is responsible for 700 jobs in the region and provides an annual economic benefit of $170 million.
“We need Governor Abbott to begin supporting jobs in East Texas,” said Cecilia Flores, Chair of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Tribal Council. “The Governor’s opposition could cause real harm for our local economy and put hundreds of people out of work. We are glad the Governor is taking this chance to visit with the East Texas business community and hope this conversation will lead him to reconsider his opposition to East Texas jobs.”
Naskila Gaming has broad support in East Texas; more than 70 civic and business groups have approved formal statements supporting the facility. In recent months, Naskila supporters have sent more than 18,000 letters to U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to seek their help in keeping Naskila open.
The Texas attorney general is fighting in court to shut Naskila down. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill, authored by Rep. Brian Babin, to clarify federal law so that electronic bingo would be allowed at Naskila. The bill would effectively end the state’s legal efforts to close Naskila.
However, the U.S. Senate has not acted on that legislation. In fact, Cornyn pointed to Abbott’s opposition as a reason why the Senate should not consider the Babin bill.
Abbott has in recent weeks celebrated companies such as Hewlett Packard and Amazon moving jobs to Texas, but he has not shown the same enthusiasm for preserving jobs in East Texas.
Naskila has had to close multiple times to protect public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. During those closures, Naskila employees have continued to receive their full pay and benefits.
“We have supported our employees and we need our Governor to support them as well,” Flores said. “We need the Governor to show us that he cares just as much about jobs that already exist in East Texas as he cares about jobs coming from California. It’s time for the Governor to stop working against the people of East Texas.”
To join Monday’s virtual meeting with Abbott, log on at 12:50 to 2 p.m. to https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/351792541. You can also dial in using your phone at 1-408-650-3123. The access code is 351-792-541.