Baptist gambling monitor questions extension for Speaking Rock casino
___By Ken Camp
___Texas Baptist Communications
___Just three days before the court-ordered deadline for the Tigua Indians to shut down their Speaking Rock Casino near El Paso, another court granted the tribe a temporary reprieve.
___Texas Attorney General John Cornyn had ruled that the Tigua's Speaking Rock casino gambling operation near El Paso was illegal, and federal courts had affirmed that ruling, issuing an order that the casino be shut down by Nov. 30. But on Nov. 27, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion by the Tiguas to keep the casino open while the tribe appeals its court-ordered closing.
___"So now the Tigua leadership gets to continue its illegal gambling operation in West Texas, the Alabama-Coushattas get to open a new casino in East Texas, and the laws of the state go unenforced," said longtime gambling opponent Weston Ware.
___Neither the Tiguas nor the Alabama-Coushattas are in compliance with the national Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which requires tribes to have a compact with the state, Ware said. The Alabama-Coushattas are "flaunting state and federal law" by opening their casino near Livingston, and the reprieve granted to the Tiguas offers encouragement for others to begin similar illegal gambling operations, he added.
___The last-minute "stay of execution" for Speaking Rock came two weeks after the Tigua leadership launched a major public relations campaign to save the casino.
___Full-page ads that ran Nov. 12 in the Washington Post and in Texas' five largest newspapers claimed that closing the Speaking Rock Casino would "destroy" the future of the Tigua Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. In the Dallas Morning News alone, the advertising cost was more than $26,500.
___"Through a legal technicality, Texas Attorney General John Cornyn is trying to shut down Speaking Rock, and with it, our future!" the ads stated.
___The Texas Constitution and its prohibition of casino gambling is hardly a technicality, said Ware, immediate past chairman of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.
___"The Tiguas' leadership has broken the law and broken their word. They have violated the Texas Constitution, failed to follow the requirements of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and turned their backs on pledges they made when their reservation was granted federal recognition," said Ware, who served nearly two decades with the Baptist General Convention of Texas Christian Life Commission.
___He noted that in 1986, Miguel Pedraza, then governor of the Ysleta del Sur Puelbo, testified before the Texas Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs. At that time, Pedraza cited support for a ban on gambling operations on the reservation, saying, "We have requested that such a prohibition be included because that accurately states our own tribal custom--we do not now nor have we ever permitted gambling in any form on our reservation."
___The tribal council also passed a resolution stating, "Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has no interest in conducting high-stakes bingo or other gambling operations on its reservation, regardless of whether such activities would be governed by tribal law, state law or federal law."
___But seven years later, the Tiguas opened the Speaking Rock Casino, an operation that reportedly makes about $60 million a year.
___In the newspaper ads, the Tiguas maintained that the casino has created 1,000 jobs for El Paso County and had a total economic impact of more than $800 million since 1993.
___The ads pictured Tigua parents holding photos of their children in military uniforms alongside a headline, "Will our children have a home when they return?" The advertising copy stated that Tiguas are serving the United States in Operation Enduring Freedom.
___"We Tiguas share our blessings with our neighbors in El Paso, and now we share our sons and daughters with the rest of the country in the War on Terrorism. But we are afraid there will be nothing left for our children when they return home," the ads claimed.
___The ads called on Texans to contact the state attorney general. "Beg him to save our families!" they pleaded.
___Ware, a board member of Texans Against Gambling, said Tigua leaders should be "embarrassed" by the ads.
___"In an effort to legitimize an illegal casino that never should have been built in the first place, the Tigua leaders attempt to make the law and its due enforcement responsible for the failure of a project badly begun," he said.
___"The Tigua leadership should be embarrassed. So should state and local officials who have turned a blind eye to their illegal operations and courts that allow these unlawful activities to continue. But perhaps the great shame should be upon the people of Texas who seem to have ignored eight years of lawbreaking for profit.
___"Instead of appealing for our chief law enforcement official to ignore illegal activity, Texans should express support for the rule of law and voice encouragement to the public officials who honor it."
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