By. T. Camacho, El Paso Metro
A petition circulating around the city to support theTigua Reservation Speaking Rock Casino garnered 300 signatures in 2 hours at a recent fundraiser. The large number of signatures collected by one supporter is evidence of the widespread support the Tigua’s effort to keep the Casino open enjoys around the city.
A federal judge has ordered the Casino closed by November 30th of this year. The Tiguas have asked for the judge to reconsider his decision based on the fact that the Tigua Reservation was classified as an “Association” under the laws of the State of Texas instead of as a “sovereign nation”. They further protest that other activities legal for some groups must also be closed. They argue that this decision, therefore, discriminates against them with respect to other associations who are allowed to conduct Bingo, for example.
On the other hand, political and business interests are supporting the Tiguas wholeheartedly. Both Senator Elliot Shapleigh and Mayor Ray Caballero have been handholding and deploring the closure of the Casino. Senator Shapleigh suggested the Tiguas diversify and Caballero conveyed his disappointment with the decision. Governor Albert Alvidrez was still talking tough this past week and vowed to pursue every legal remedy at his disposal.
The airwaves have also been filled with the testimony of various employees who stand to lose their jobs if the Casino closes. The Casino provides hundreds of jobs and pumps millions of dollars into the border economy. If the Casino closes, the recession deepens and the border squeeze continues, the local economy will be hit very hard.
Not everyone is sorry the Casino is closing. Some still remember the ugly physical expulsion of some Tiguas who did not meet, the generally acknowledged as racist, “blood quantum” criteria for membership in a Reservation. Others reject the notion that gambling benefits the community. “Gambling brings with it addiction and crime,” explained lower valley resident E. Garcia. He suggested that the Tiguas should get into other “legal” businesses. On the other hand, bingo operations around the city are licking their chops at the prospect of the Casino closing. “Our business is bound to explode if Speaking Rock is shut down in November,” said one Bingo operator.