Deep in the heart of East Texas, there could soon be a new tourist attraction: a casino.
A legal challenge from Texas state officials could always delay or derail the plan. But if the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas has its way, they'll be opening a casino early next year on a more than 10,000-acre Indian reservation south of Livingston.
"This would be a big shot in the arm," said Carlos Bullock, a spokesman for the tribe who noted that the clan has struggled financially since its first casino was shut down by the state in 2002.
"When we were open before, ... we generated about $1 million a month," he said. "When we closed, it was devastating to the tribe. ... It was a huge impact to lose that kind of revenue, and all those jobs."
The casino, about 240 miles southwest of Fort Worth, closed after the tribe lost legal fights with Texas officials, who said state law trumped national Indian law and casino gambling wasn't allowed in Texas.
But the tribe now believes it has new authority to reopen a casino featuring devices that look, act and sound like slot machines but really are electronic bingo machines.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commissionruled that the tribe can operate games on its reservation, just as the Tigua Indians can on the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo reservation near El Paso.
This is the latest development in a more than decade-old legal battle pitting national Indian law that maintains tribes are sovereign nations and may operate casinos on their reservations against state law preventing an expansion of gambling in Texas.
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