On February 15, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas welcomed its two-millionth visitor to Naskila Gaming. Naturally, quite a celebration took place. The lucky gentleman from Crockett was showered with prizes — including significant free play on the electronic bingo games that are the feature of Naskila Gaming — for his moment of historic happenstance.
Celebrating that milestone was festive for everyone at the facility that day, and a moment that the entire Alabama-Coushatta Tribe took in with pride and gratitude. But the real celebration is taking place every day throughout the region. We are grateful and humbled by the success of Naskila Gaming and what it has meant for our tribe and for the economy in the region. It means an awful lot.
We learned just how much — in dollars and cents, human beings and quality of life — the tribe’s operation of Naskila Gaming means when the Texas Forest Country Partnership commissioned an economic impact study which was conducted by Texas Perspectives.
- Naskila Gaming generates nearly $140 million a year for the Texas economy. We are now the third largest employer in Polk County, providing 370 jobs on site at the facility, which features electronic bingo.
- More than 70 percent of these employees are non-tribal members. We are proud to provide these well-paying jobs with health care and retirement benefits to residents of Polk and surrounding counties.
- Additionally, the study identified another 200 spin-off jobs that have been created as a direct result of the operation of our alcohol-free Naskila Gaming facility.
There are other contributions that the study couldn’t quantify, like the $500,000 in Hurricane Harvey Relief funds the Alabama-Coushatta contributed to 10 of the hardest-hit counties (including $250,000 to Harris County), or the 30 new manufactured homes the tribe has and is purchasing locally. We are providing long-overdue housing for tribal members and providing an additional economic shot in the arm for the region.
We have been humbled by the overwhelming public support from all the elected officials in deep east Texas who are represented by the Forest Country Partnership. Our tribe has also received support from our neighbors to the south, including Harris and Jefferson Counties, which account for huge numbers of guests enjoying our Class II Indian gaming facility.
Finally, the tribe is blessed with widespread support among Texas legislators, especially from those representing deep east Texas and southeast Texas.
We need everyone’s support now because our U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, has introduced federal legislation that will ensure that the tribe continues to operate Naskila Gaming — continues to generate $140 million annually for our Texas economy — for years to come. With a united Texas congressional delegation behind the bill, there’s no reason we can’t achieve that goal in 2019.
Rep. Babin’s bill, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Equal and Fair Opportunity Act (HR 759), will do just that, by putting the three federally recognized tribes in Texas on equal footing by authorizing all three to offer Class II Indian gaming. All three tribes — the Tiguas of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, the Kickapoo and the Alabama-Coushatta — have much to offer the state. All of us will help keep Texas gaming dollars in Texas, and that’s good for the state.
It is no coincidence that our guest of honor marking the two-millionth visit to Naskila hails from Crockett. Almost 99 percent of guests at Naskila are from Texas. These are entertainment dollars that would otherwise go out of state. Let’s keep those dollars in Texas!
About the Alabama Coushatta
Our tribe has been in Texas since the 1780s. In fact, our role in the history of Texas began even before it became a state. During the Mexican War of Independence from Spain, we fought with the revolutionaries. In 1836, tribe members served as guides for Sam Houston’s army and assisted Texas refugees fleeing from Santa Anna’s army. In 1839, the president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau Lamar, declared the Alabama-Coushatta to have "equitable claims for protection of property and persons” in the new country.
In 1927, the Texas Legislature appointed a committee to investigate our Tribe’s conditions. “The investigations revealed that the Tribe has rendered outstanding services to the Republic of Texas and to the State,” the report to the 1929 Legislature states.
We opened Naskila Gaming in May 2016 after obtaining authority from the National Indian Gaming Commission in October 2015. The facility is regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission established pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
I am pleased to report that once again, through the operation of Naskila Gaming, the Alabama-Coushatta are ready to provide ‘outstanding services’ to the state.