Naskila Gaming casino, owned by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, pumped $212 million into Polk County’s economy in 2022, according to a new report commissioned by the Texas Forest Country Partnership.
Polk County has been reaping economic benefits from Naskila Gaming since the venue opened in 2001. With each passing year, the bounty keeps getting bigger.
Naskila Gaming is one of three tribal venues that represent the totality of legal casinos in Texas.
Study shows year-over-year growth for Naskila Gaming casino
The study, conducted by economic analysis firm TXP, indicated Naskila Gaming provides up to 400 jobs, as well as an additional 825 permanent local jobs with a collective payroll of $22.5 million.
About 95% of Naskila’s clientele commute from outside of Polk County, and more than 80% come from other regions.
The Texas Forest Country Partnership has studied Naskila’s impact on Polk County twice before. Findings from those studies show the amount of economic activity generated by Naskila Gaming grew from $140 million in 2018 and $170 million in 2020 to $212 million today.
Alongside this monetary gain, during that same period, Naskila’s employment numbers went up from 550 to 700 to 825. Ricky Sylestine, chair of the Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas Tribal Council, said in an article by Bluebonnet News:
“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.”
Texas tribal casino provides economic benefits for all of Polk County
Naskila Gaming’s revenues provide far more benefits than just to its employees. Among the facility’s main priorities is providing funding for:
- Scholarships for the Reservation;
- Additional housing;
- A health clinic and day care center;
- Retail shops that serve the tribe and the larger community.
After Georgia Pacific, Naskila Gaming is the second-biggest employer in Polk County, according to the study. The casino’s direct jobs pay an average salary of $38,255. If it provides benefits such as 401(k) plans and health insurance, the average total employee compensation nears $50,000 annually.
“The growth of Naskila’s success is very good for Polk County,” Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy said, according to Bluebonnet News. “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.”
Cathy Bennett, who chairs The Texas Forest Country Partnership, an economic development organization serving the 12-county region of Deep East Texas, had this to say, Bluebonnet News reported:
“We have been honored to have the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas as a member of our organization and were thrilled once again to request an updated impact study to verify what was already apparent, Naskila’s economic impact is very important to our region, especially since we are basically rural.”
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas wants to be placed under IGRA’s umbrella
Throughout Naskila Gaming’s 22 years of operation, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe has been battling the state of Texas to remain in business. Last year, after a drawn-out legal fight, the US Supreme Court upheld the Tribe’s right to offer electronic bingo.
The Tribe would like to be subsumed by the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Currently, it is not. Instead, it falls under state control through the 1988 Restoration Act, which requires the tribe to conform to the highly-restrictive gambling laws of the state.
The IGRA provides the regulatory framework for hundreds of tribes nationwide, such as the Kickapoo Tribe in Eagle Pass, Texas, to assert their autonomy through tribal compacts with state governments, most of which focus on expanding tribal gaming on tribal lands.
IGRA’s passing by Congress in 1988 was a watershed moment in policymaking for reservation-resident American Indians. It set the stage for tribal government-owned gaming facilities. It also shaped how this new industry would develop and how tribal governments would invest in gaming revenues.
The key to tribal autonomy through IGRA is a tribal-state compact. Unfortunately, the Lone Star State has not established a single compact with its three federally recognized tribes.
For the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and Naskila Gaming, incorporation into IGRA would mean a chance to negotiate a gaming compact that would increase the gambling opportunities on offer at their lone tribal venue.
About the tribe and Naskila Gaming
Naskila Gaming is a Class II Indian gaming casino with 800 electronic bingo-style slot machines. The winners are paid from a player’s pool rather than by the house. The 30,000-square-foot facility is open 24/7 and has smoking and nonsmoking areas. Table games cannot be legally offered.
There are also two restaurants on-site.
Located an hour and a half north of Houston in Big Thicket, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is the oldest Indian reservation in Texas. Their land encompasses 10,200 acres near Livingston, Texas.
More than 1,400 individuals are members of the tribe. They are a fully functioning sovereign government providing various health and human services, including law enforcement and emergency services.
Adhering to tradition, the tribe is governed by an elected tribal council and takes advice from the principal chief and second chief.