Naskila Casino Names New Community Development Manager

Written By TJ McBride on January 25, 2024
Photo of the exterior of Naskila Casino on a story about the casino hiring a new community development manager.

Naskila Casino is one of just three casinos in Texas. The casino northeast of Houston recently chose Herbert Johnson Jr. as its new community development manager.

Johnson is a citizen of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and the son of former Principal Chief Herbert Johnson Sr.

Under his new role, Johnson will build support for the tribe in the area and educate groups on the tribe’s goals.

Johnson can use his PR skills in his new role

There are no commercial casinos in the state and the three Texas tribal casinos are profitable, according to a report by the Texas Forest Country Partnership. Naskila generated $212 million of economic impact for Polk County in 2022.

Johnson is well known in the tribe, which will help him in his new position. Outside of his father being the former chief of the tribe, Johnson himself has a strong track record. Through Johnson’s work, the tribe has garnered the approval and support of nearly 100 groups in the surrounding community.

Tribal Council Chairman Ricky Sylestine told East Texas News that he’s confident in Johnson’s abilities to do a great job.

“Herb is a great representative of our tribe and a champion for Naskila Casino. People in this community know and appreciate Herb, and I am glad he will continue to build relationships with our neighbors and help them learn about our history, our traditions and our contributions to Deep East Texas.”

Johnson’s prior role was leading public relations for the casino, which provided him an intimate understanding of the casino, its goals and the impact it has on the tribe and community. Naskila supports 825 local jobs with an annual payroll of $22.5 million.

For Johnson, this might be a career change, but his goals remain largely the same, he told the East Texas News.

“I am very honored to continue our relationship with our supporters and building new bridges within our East Texas region. I want to continue great relations with our neighbors within the city, county, chambers of commerce and civic organizations and to continue educating state and local leaders about what Naskila provides.”

Tribe will continue to fight for its sovereignty

One of the first tasks for Johnson to work on will be continuing the fight for the tribe’s sovereignty.

For years, Texas lawmakers have pushed back against Naskila Casino. Johnson could help to eliminate Texas’ hold on the casino if Naskila can be brought under the regulation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

When the Yselta del Sur Pueblo tribe won its case against Texas over the legality of electronic bingo machines. the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe was also victorious, as it offers ebingo machines at Naskila.

Sylestine told Blue Bonnet News the ruling officially ended all concerns about the legality of Naskila.

“The Supreme Court decision ended years of uncertainty for the tribe and for Naskila. It was not easy protecting our tribal sovereignty against the powerful elected officials in Texas. However, we had no choice, and the Supreme Court decision confirmed that we were doing the right thing for our people and for the people who depend on Naskila Casino for their livelihoods.”

Most federally recognized tribes operate gaming facilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, but one of the exceptions is the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. Congressman Morgan Luttrell has put forward a measure to break Naskila Casino from the grips of the Texas statehouse.

Johnson’s new role will be important in this endeavor. Gaining local support will be key.

Sydney Murphy, a Polk County judge, praised the casino in an interview with The Item.

“The growth of Naskila’s success is very good for Polk County. Naskila draws visitors into our region and provides stable income and benefits for its employees. We know that Naskila will continue to play an important role in our county’s future.”

Sylestine reciprocated.

“We are grateful that our guests, our employees and our neighbors in deep East Texas have allowed the impact of Naskila Casino to continue to grow. This facility helps sustain our tribe and our region.”

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TJ McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver, Colorado who covers the Denver Nuggets as a beat writer and the current gaming landscape in Texas. His byline can be found across many websites such as ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report, and others.

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