In just a few short weeks, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas has plans to open a Class II gaming facility. The former on its reservation is being converted by the tribe into .
Douglas Searle, a veteran of the tribal and commercial industry, is overseeing the operation and expects the 15,000 square-foot facility to be open in April. The casino will reportedly include 365 gaming devices and a restaurant. Searle was hired three months ago from his position at an Arizona casino to launch and manage the new gaming operation which is approximately an hour north of the Houston metropolitan area.
Carpet is being ripped up and replaced, a modern digital security system is being added, and the entire electrical system has also been upgraded to the Adirondack-style lodge on its woodsy reservation. While the 365 electronic gaming machines pending shipment are described as bingo devices, it’s difficult to distinguish them from Las Vegas slots, which Texas law prohibits.
Searle told The Austin-American Statesman that he thinks one of the biggest problems the tribe will face is having enough room to accommodate all of the people who want to visit the casino.
When the facility opens its doors in a few weeks, it is expected to generate $1 million a month, according to Alabama-Coushatta tribal officials. According to Searle, plans for more table games and poker and gaming machines are already in the works, and further down the road a hotel, golf course and other amenities are being considered by the tribe.
The Alabama-Coushatta first offered gambling in 2001 only to have it shut down nine months later due to a federal court ruling resulting from a challenge launched by then Texas Attorney General John Cornyn; the same challenge that shut down the operations of the Tigua tribe of El Paso. Prior to being shut down, the Alabama-Coushatta’s casino generated approximately $1 million a month, according to tribe spokesman, Carlos Bullock.
The tribe has struggled financially since it was forced to close in 2002, said Bullock, and added that the closing was devastating to the tribe, which lost revenue and jobs, all while casinos in nearby states, such as the in Oklahoma, continued to flourish, as reported by the Star-Telegram.
The tribe received federal approval from the National Indian Gaming Commission last year to resume electronic betting (NIGC), citing a new interpretation from the Office of the Solicitor at the Interior Department. It was determined by the Obama administration that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) “impliedly repealed” the provision in the restoration act. The Tigua Tribe’s restoration law includes a similar provision, but the state has so far refused to accept the new interpretation as part of the ongoing lawsuit involving the tribe.