Tribal Casino Gaming in Texas
Consult this page for a guide to tribal gambling in the state of 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, many dozens of Native American casinos inside state lines. Oklahoma, for example, has over 100 of them. Even a state like Texas with relatively few legal gambling options has tribal gambling facilities, albeit in a limited way.
Here is a rundown of tribal gaming in Texas and the few options that the tribes maintain in the Lone Star State.
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. The closest offering that Texas has 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. It is only necessary to secure a compact with the state if the tribe wants to offer Class III gambling, which allows other casino-style table games and the like. 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 that are 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 down in 2002 in response to similar enforcement threats. They also reopened their facility in 2016, but as a live music venue and 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. A final decision is in sight, with the two sides making oral arguments to the US Supreme Court in February 2022. Observers believe that the justices are leaning toward the tribes’ side of the case, but nothing is certain until there is a final decision.
Tribal casinos in Texas
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 offered service in the El Paso area in years past. However, threats of litigation and legal ramifications from the state attorney general have cowed the tribe that owns it, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (Tigua), into abandoning its gambling offerings. Today, the center offers live music and food options, but no gambling.
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 of Eagle Pass. The casino itself overlooks the Rio Grande and is very 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, actual live bingo games every Wednesday through Sunday, and live poker, but there are no table games 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 in the state. The nearest major city to the facility is San Antonio, and it’s 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, but 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 may be about to change. A Supreme Court decision about the legality of two Texas tribes offering gambling on reservation lands could secure the legitimacy of Naskila Gaming and open the possibility of a resurgent Speaking Rock Casino. While the possibility of one more casino in a state the size of Texas is not as impactful as it would be in a smaller state, it would represent a critical reversal of the longstanding status quo in Texas.
A favorable decision might also inspire other Native American communities in the state to seek federal recognition. There are several tribes that 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 tribal casinos in Texas?
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 Texas 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 one more Class II facility might reopen. The Speaking Rock Entertainment Center operates as a music venue under the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, but the facility has been a bingo casino in the past. The Tiguas are hoping for a favorable outcome from their case with the Supreme Court, with a decision in the case likely to come soon. Whether courtroom success would translate into a reopened casino is unclear, but it’s certainly possible.
Otherwise, at the moment, there are no eligible groups that can open casinos in Texas. 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. Neither the Lucky Eagle nor Naskila Gaming 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.