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Nearly 12,000 letters urge senators to save East Texas jobs

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

 

Additional Support

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.

Pedigo, Furniture

Prestige Oyster Inc.