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The state of Texas has filed another lawsuit seeking to end gambling on the tribal land of El Paso’s Tigua Indians.
“Both the tribe’s slot machines purporting to offer ‘electronic bingo,’ and its paper and card minder-based bingo, involve the elements of an illegal lottery in Texas: chance, prize, and consideration,” according to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday by the Texas Attorney General’s Office in U.S. District Court in El Paso.
The Tiguas and the state have been locked in a contentious legal battle over gambling on tribal land since 1999. The state says the Tiguas are violating state gaming laws and the Restoration Act, a 1987 federal law that gave the tribe federal recognition.
The Tiguas have disputed those allegations, though they have suffered a series of court defeats over the years that forced closure of their casino in 2002 and have since brought repeated legal challenges as the tribe has introduced different gaming options at its Speaking Rock Entertainment Center in the Lower Valley.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone of El Paso closed the original 1999 lawsuit last year, and re-emphasized the closure in a ruling earlier this year. She said if the state wanted to seek an injunction or other action against the Tiguas, it would need to file a new lawsuit.
That’s what the state did on Wednesday. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez of El Paso.
In the lawsuit, the state said its inspectors went into Speaking Rock on May 17.
The Attorney General’s office said in the lawsuit that it had been seeking to inspect the casino since last July, when the El Paso Times reported that the Tiguas said they would stop offering so-called sweepstakes games and instead introduce what it called bingo-based games.
The Tigua Tribal Council last year said that police from outside the tribe had to obtain permission before entering tribal land. Cardone had ordered the state and tribe to work out an agreement to let inspectors for the attorney general come into the casino.
According to Wednesday’s lawsuit, state inspectors found the casino offering paper-based bingo, electronic “card minders” for up to 90 bingo cards, pull-tabs, and what the state referred to as “thousands of slot machines operating ‘electronic bingo.’”
The games violate state law and the federal Restoration Act, the state alleges in its lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that the games are illegal, and preliminary and permanent injunctions that would end all electronic and paper bingo activities on tribal land.
No hearings have been set.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; email@example.com; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
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