By The Enterprise editorial staff
Published 6:00 am, Tuesday, February 27, 2018
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe faces a tough legal battle to keep its Naskila Gaming facility open. State and federal officials don’t buy the tribe’s argument that its bingo hall should be legal under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The tribe does have one important ally, however – its local congressman. U.S. Rep. Brian Babin has filed a bill that would declare Naskila to be included in the 1988 law.
Members of Congress file bills all the time that would benefit businesses in their district or state. But Babin’s support is surprising considering that he is a conservative Republican, a political subset that has rarely been friendly to legalized gambling. If this bingo hall were in another state, he might view it differently.
Yet it’s not to hard to surmise at least part of Babin’s motivation here. The gaming center is a big deal in his largely rural district. The tribe says it provides 330 jobs with an annual payroll of $17 million. A lot of those paychecks are spent in and around Woodville, not to mention all the food and gasoline bought by Naskila’s patrons. If the facility were shut down, the economic impact would be noticeable.
Another factor worth noting here is that too many members of Congress – including Babin – spend too much time flogging broader issues that have less impact on their constituents, such as Obamacare or moving the U.S. embassy in Israel.
Those issues are not minor, but they can become an easy fallback for a congressman who wants to verify how liberal or conservative he is.
Some of that is inevitable in our political system, but House or Senate members should not neglect hometown issues while doing it. As in this case, they should also be prepared to step outside their party’s talking points to do what’s best for their constituents.
Babin’s bill might be the only way the bingo hall can remain open, given that past courtroom battles have not been that friendly to the tribe. At least this legislation gives the tribe some hope, and the sense that it’s not fighting the entire federal bureaucracy.