FROM THE ARCHIVE
Tribe ordered to close 'unlawful enterprise'
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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26, 2002

A federal judge on Tuesday sided with the state of Texas and ordered the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe to shut down its casino.

U.S. District Judge John Hannah issued a preliminary injunction that requires illegal gaming on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation to "cease and desist." The tribe was given 30 days to bring its "unlawful enterprise" into compliance with state law, which prohibits certain types of casino activities.

The ruling, issued yesterday evening, was immediately decried by tribal chairman Kevin Battise. "This decision is wrong," he said.

"This decision hurts not only the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and its tribal members, but also our non-Indian employees, our local community and the citizens of the state of Texas as well," he added.

Battise was in Washington, D.C., a week ago to ask Congress for help in fighting the state. Leaders of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee were sympathetic yet cautioned there might be little they could do.

Even if Congress were to act, it would be too late to save the tribe. Yesterday's 22-page opinion was based on a 1987 law that restored federal recognition to the Alabama-Coushatta, which had been terminated and put under state control in 1954.

In exchange for that status, Texas argued that the tribe agreed never to open a casino. Hannah agreed and cited a tribal resolution that stipulated no gaming.

Hannah also relied on recent decisions that forced the Tigua Tribe to shut down its casino. The issue of gambling on reservations in the state of Texas has been settled once and for all by the federal courts.

"A change in the law, not an undoing of determinations made by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, will allow the tribe to conduct gambling activities on its reservation," Hannah wrote.

According to Battise's Senate testimony, closing the casino will impact about 220 workers, a third of whom are tribal members. He also said the facility, offering slot machines, card games and bingo, brings in $1 million a month.

The Tigua Tribe complied with a court order and offers a vastly reduced set of games at its El Paso-area casino. The tribe has asked the Supreme Court to review the law.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe has approximately 1,000 members and a 4,000-acre reservation in eastern Texas.

Relevant Documents:
Battise Statement (6/25) | Alabama-Coushatta v. Texas (6/25)

Relevant Links:
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe - http://www.alabama-coushatta.com
Office of Attorney General, Texas - http://www.oag.state.tx.us

Related Stories:
Another Texas tribe faces shutdown (6/19)

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