Texas Trying to Stall Kickapoo Indian Tribe Gambling Expansion

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.

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