Texas Trying to Stall Kickapoo Indian Tribe Gambling Expansion

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The Texas state government has been fighting for years with the United States Department of the Interior over the Kickapoo Indian Tribe’s plan to offer Las Vegas style gambling at its casino near Eagle Pass along the Mexican border.

Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, in a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, asked to delay efforts to allow the tribe this expansion.

Last month, the Interior Department gave the Kickapoo Tribe preliminary approval to expand from poker and bingo to a range of games including, blackjack, keno, roulette and off-track pari-mutual betting on horses or dogs. Details of regulating those games must still be worked out with the federal government.

Cornyn and Abbott criticized the department’s decisions and its procedures for processing gaming permits over a state’s objections.

Abbott said the department “should have waited for a federal appeals court ruling on Texas’ claim that those procedures unconstitutionally usurp the state?s power to prohibit casino gambling.”

“Many times over the years, Texans have spoken on whether to allow casino-style gaming,” Cornyn wrote in his letter. “The answer has always been clear ? casinos are not wanted in Texas.”

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, a tribe can offer the same games permitted in the state. Texas has legal pari-mutual betting on dogs and horses, and a state run lottery. The Interior Departments approval letter said the “States definition of a lottery is broad enough to include traditional casino-style games, except slot machines.”

When Cornyn was the Texas attorney general, he fought to close Indian casinos saying, “States should have more of a say in decisions about gambling within their borders.”

The Kickapoo Tribe has been trying to expand gaming operations for more than a decade. In 2004, Texas sued the Interior Department after federal officials announced plans to move ahead with the tribes request despite the states objections. The lawsuit was dismissed a year later by a district judge.

Texas Lawmakers Split On Whether Or Not To Create Casino Industry

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The state of Texas has been one of the states that has turned away from casino gambling in the past. They have lawmakers that are now discussing making the state a central figure for gambling, but others who do not want the expansion.

The battle is heating up all across the state. A new Bill that has been proposed would bring twelve casinos to Texas and with that may casinos, it means that they would be located in different counties.

Each of the counties has their own opinion on whether there should be casinos. Officials from Tarrant County have come out lately against casinos, fearing that they are only being used as a way out of financial difficulty.

“It’s not the sort of economic development I want to encourage,” said Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, “At this point, I’m just not sure I can see the merits of doing that.”

The new Bill that has been introduced has come from both sides of the aisle. Four lawmakers have sponsored the Bill, two of them are Democrats and the other two Republicans. While it is receiving support in the state government, individual cities are not as enthusiastic.

“I would explore other sources of revenue before I would encourage casino gambling in our city,” said Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief. Fort Worth is one of the areas that is a potential site for a casino.

Other possible sites include Dallas, El Paso, and Galveston. There also would be three tribal casinos if the Bill is approved.