Nearly 12,000 letters urge senators to save East Texas jobs
Published 11:20 am Tuesday, October 13, 2020
LIVINGSTON — Texas’ U.S. senators have been sent nearly 12,000 letters over the past six weeks asking them to save the 700 jobs connected to the Naskila Gaming electronic bingo facility. The letters, including one from Orange County Commissioners Court, provide a grassroots complement to more than 70 civic and business groups who have also urged the Senate to ask and keep this major East Texas employer open.
The 11,700 letters urge Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to help pass H.R. 759, a bill that would effectively stop the state of Texas’ efforts to close Naskila down. The U.S. House unanimously passed H.R. 759, authored by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, more than a year ago. The Senate has not moved forward with the bill — putting Polk County’s second-largest employer at risk.
Naskila, which is operated by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, continues to have overwhelming support in East Texas. More than 70 groups — including county commissioner courts, local Republican parties and chambers of commerce — have approved resolutions or other statements of support for keeping Naskila open.
“Texans are speaking with a loud, clear voice in support of Naskila Gaming,” said Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council Chairwoman Cecilia Flores. “We are grateful for the support we’ve received from our visitors and from respected civic and business leaders throughout this region. We hope the Senate will listen to Texans who want to protect these jobs.”
Naskila is responsible for 700 direct and indirect jobs in East Texas and a recent study estimated that Naskila generates $170 million in annual economic activity for the region. More than 1 million people visit the facility per year. Even when closed for several months during the pandemic, Naskila continued to provide pay and benefits for its employees. Naskila reopened September 10 with new safety precautions in place.
Another 1,000 jobs are tied to the electronic bingo facility operated by Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso. The state is also trying to shut that facility down. However, it is not trying to shut down electronic bingo on the Kickapoo tribal land in Eagle Pass, near the Texas-Mexico border.
H.R. 759 would ensure that the facilities in Livingston and El Paso are governed by the same federal law as the Kickapoo facility.
“We want to offer electronic bingo without state interference, just like the Kickapoo Tribe,” Flores said. “It’s very concerning to Naskila employees and their families that the Senate has not acted. We have broad, diverse support in East Texas. The Senate needs to approve this bill and save these jobs by the end of the year.”
In August, 19 members of the U.S. House who represent Texas — ten Republicans and nine Democrats — sent Cornyn a letter urging him to support H.R. 759. “Rather than spend untold sums on legal fees and litigation, costing the State of Texas millions of dollars, we believe we could better enact our time and resources by enacting H.R. 759, which would create an economic boost to two hard hit areas of the state with no cost to the taxpayer,” the congressional letter said.
The following civic and business groups have approved resolutions and letters support H.R. 759 and Naskila Gaming:
Polk County Commissioners Court
Polk County Chamber of Commerce
Polk County Republican Party
Polk County Higher Education and Technology Foundation
Tyler County Commissioners Court
Tyler County Chamber of Commerce
Tyler County Hospital Board
DETCOG- Deep East Texas Council of Government
Texas Forest Country Partnership
Hardin County Commissioners Court
Walker County Commissioners Court
San Jacinto County Commissioners Court
San Jacinto County Republican Party
Jefferson County Commissioners Court
Trinity County Commissioners Court
Liberty County Commissioners Court
Chambers County Commissioners Court
Chambers County Republican Party
Orange County Commissioners Court
Jasper County Commissioners Court
Jasper Economic Development Co.
Newton County Commissioners Court
Sabine County Commissioners Court
Cherokee County Commissioners Court
Madison County Commissioners Court
Shelby County Commissioners Court
San Augustine County Commissioners Court
Houston County Commissioners Court
Harrison County Commissioners Court
Falls County Commissioners Court
Johnson County Commissioners Court
The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce
Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce
Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce
Lufkin/Angelina Chamber of Commerce
Cleveland Chamber of Commerce
Huntsville Chamber of Commerce
Livingston City Council
Huntsville City Council
Woodville City Council
Cleveland City Council
Shepard City Council
Splendora City Council
Onalaska City Council
Ivanhoe City Council
Goodrich City Council
San Augustine City Council
Lovelady City Council
New Waverly City Council
Corrigan City Council
Galveston Maritime Business Association
Lake Travis Republican Party
Bell County Republican Party
Hopkins County Republican Party
Hays County Republican Party
National Congress of American Indians
All Pueblo Council of Governors
USET- United South and Eastern Tribes, INC.
CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial
Polk County VFW Post #8568
Southern News Group- Houston
Escapees RV Club- Livingston
Texas Familias Council
Church Street Financial Livingston, Texas
Livingston Rotary Club
Onalaska Police Department
Ivanhoe City Marshal’s Office
Eastex Telephone Co.
C.T Jones Insurance Co.
Prestige Oyster Inc.