Consult this page for a guide to tribal gambling in Texas.
Tribal gambling is a curious thing in the scope of gambling around the country. States without any commercial casinos or other gambling facilities can have, in some cases, dozens of Native American casinos inside state lines. Even a state like Texas, with relatively few legal gambling options, has tribal gambling facilities.
Here is a rundown of tribal gaming and the Texas casinos that the tribes maintain.
Is tribal casino gambling legal in Texas?
Yes. There is one tribal casino in the state that offers slots and live poker and another slots-only casino that remains in a bit of legal flux. Texas’s closest offering to an actual casino belongs to the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas.
What tribes are eligible to offer gambling in Texas?
The only tribe eligible to offer gambling in the state is the Kickapoo Tribe. Its Lucky Eagle venue operates under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, which is the law that broadly allows federally recognized tribes to offer gambling on their reservation lands.
According to the law, tribes may offer Class I and Class II gambling under the supervision of the National Indian Gaming Commission, regardless of how the tribe’s resident state feels about it. Securing a compact with the state is necessary if the tribe wants to offer Class III gambling, which allows other casino-style table games. However, the Kickapoos have either declined to pursue the matter with the state of Texas, or the state has refused to have the meeting.
Other tribes in Texas
There are two other federally recognized tribes in the state, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (Tigua). Their status would seem to indicate that they would be able to offer Class II gambling, as well. However, both tribes are encountering resistance from the state due to the Restoration Act of 1987.
This law has become a classic double-edged sword. On one hand, it restored both tribes to full federal recognition after they lost that status decades earlier. The reinstatement of their good standing with the US government was critical to securing reservation lands, exercising a degree of sovereignty, and, critically, offering gambling on tribal property. However, the law also included language that prohibited the tribes from offering games illegal under Texas law.
“All gaming activities which are prohibited by the laws of the State of Texas are hereby prohibited on the reservation and on lands of the tribe. Any violation of the prohibition provided in this subsection shall be subject to the same civil and criminal penalties that are provided by the laws of the State of Texas.”
The state, in turn, has sought to disqualify both tribes from offering gambling at every turn. The Alabama-Coushattas operated a facility in the early 2000s for a brief period, but shut down under threat of enforcement from state officials. They reopened their facility as Naskila Gaming in 2016 and have been fighting with the state ever since.
The Tiguas also opened their own casino facility in 1993 but closed in 2002 in response to similar enforcement threats. They also reopened their facility in 2016 as a live music venue without any gambling. The Tiguas, however, have not surrendered in the fight and have been trying to argue that the language of the Restoration Act does not warrant as precise a reading as the state would like to use.
Both the Tiguas and the state of Texas have met with successes and failures in various courts between 2016 and today. The Alabama-Coushattas have, naturally, joined with the Tiguas in the case. After two sides made oral arguments to the US Supreme Court in February 2022, the US Supreme Court sided with the tribes 5-4 in June 2022. The ruling didn’t expand the kinds of games tribes can offer on their lands but reaffirmed their autonomy to regulate gambling activities that aren’t prohibited in Texas, regardless of the state’s rules.
Texas tribal casinos
As noted, Texas casinos are few and far between. Of the two casino gambling facilities listed below, only one offers live poker. Both are considered Class II gaming and do not offer table games. Slots games are limited to electronic bingo machines.
A third tribal facility, Speaking Rock Entertainment Center, has previously offered service in the El Paso area. While the Tiguas were locked in the court battle, it halted gambling at Speaking Rock, only offering live music and food options. As of 2023, the establishment once again offers electronic bingo machines.
Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel
- Location: Eagle Pass, TX
- Games? 3,300 slots-like bingo machines plus live bingo
- Poker? Yes, one live poker room
The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel occupies part of the tribe’s 120-acre reservation just outside Eagle Pass. The casino overlooks the Rio Grande and is close to the US-Mexico border. For its part, the tribe also maintains lands and businesses on the other side of the border.
The Lucky Eagle is a Class II facility. It offers around 3,300 slots-like electronic bingo machines, live bingo games every Wednesday through Sunday, and live poker, but no table games are on-site. The property also offers six restaurants, three bars, a hotel, and live entertainment options. There are other stores and amenities on reservation lands, as well.
Because Eagle Pass is relatively remote, the Lucky Eagle doesn’t have a very high profile. The nearest major city to the facility is San Antonio, a 2.5-hour drive away. Even Texans who have heard about the Lucky Eagle are unlikely to make the long drive to Eagle Pass most of the time.
- Location: Livingston, TX
- Games? 800 electronic bingo machines
- Poker? No
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas owns and operates Naskila Gaming on its reservation. The 30,000-square-foot gaming facility sits on the tribe’s lands just east of Livingston, roughly an hour north of Houston. Its proximity to the largest city in the state is to its benefit. Still, the legitimacy of Naskila remains an unsettled question in the eyes of the state of Texas and the court system.
Naskila’s offerings are also more limited than those at the Lucky Eagle. There are only around 800 electronic bingo machines at the venue. Players have only two restaurant choices, and there are no hotel options on the reservation.
What kinds of games can I play?
None of the tribal locations in Texas are full-service casinos with Class III gaming. In other words, there are no legal table games inside the state of Texas at this time. However, between the two facilities, here are the options:
Barring a change to the law, there can be no other casino gambling options in the state. That means fans of blackjack and craps will have to journey across state lines if they want to pursue their games of choice.
Texas tribal gambling outlook
Gambling in Texas expanded a little with the June 2022 Supreme Court decision. Naskila Gaming and Speaking Rock Casino both offer bingo-like games.
The decision could eventually inspire other Native American communities in the state to seek federal recognition, but to this date, that hasn’t happened. Several tribes have been historically active in Texas, but only the three referenced above have organized themselves to the point of recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Of course, the addition of any more tribes to the register of federally recognized groups in Texas is pure supposition, but the millions of dollars that the tribes are raking in from gambling might be a powerful motivator for others to get serious and organized.
Texas tribal gaming FAQ
What is the gambling age at Texas tribal casinos?
You must be over the drinking age — 21 or older.
Who oversees tribal gambling in Texas?
The National Indian Gaming Commission. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act identifies the NIGC as the oversight authority for all tribal gambling in the United States, including in Texas.
Why are table games not available at tribal casinos?
The two tribal venues in Texas are both Class II gambling facilities under the IGRA and therefore cannot offer table games such as blackjack or roulette. If either of them wanted to offer a full slate of casino games, they would have to negotiate a compact with the state government. The Kickapoo Tribe attempted to do so in 1995, but state officials declined to negotiate. The tribe then filed a suit to compel the state to the table, but 12 years of litigation resulted in no success for the tribe.
Are any more casinos going to open in Texas?
It’s possible that Class II facilities might be built. The Speaking Rock Entertainment Center (Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribe) and Naskila Gaming (Alabama-Coushatta tribe) both operate in different parts of the state as bingo casinos. But at this point, there are no eligible groups that can open casinos in the state. The three federally recognized tribes in Texas are already active, and there is no record of any other Texas tribe attempting to receive recognition at this time.
What responsible gambling resources are available at tribal casinos?
Not much. None of the three gaming houses in the state offers a lot when it comes to responsible gambling. However, Texans can make use of numerous national resources. Check out our Texas Responsible Gambling page for more information and links.