The trial is scheduled for two weeks in July but on Wednesday attorneys representing both the state and the tribe asked a federal court judge in Tallahassee to set back the trial date. Both sides claim to need additional time to interview potential witnesses and have requested that the trial is set for October instead.
The request indicates that both the tribe and the state assumed that Florida’s legislature would approve the new $3 billion compact negotiated last December between Governor Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe. Had that happened, a trial would have been unnecessary. However, the bills also became host to a number of other gambling provisions deemed necessary to get the legislation passed, which undoubtedly led to its demise. That means, at the earliest, a new compact will not be approved until next year.
The suit filed by the Seminoles is based on the original agreement between the tribe and former Governor Crist. In addition to giving tribal casinos exclusivity over banked card games such as blackjack, it also stipulated that when the compact expired, the Seminole would have a 90-day grace period to continue to offer the games. That compact expired on July 31, which prompted the federal Northern District of Florida suit which accuses the state of not conducting “good faith” dialogue regarding a renegotiated deal as per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Less than a week after the Seminole’s filing, the state countered with a suit of its own asking a judge in Tampa’s federal Middle District to stop the games. According to the tribe, even without the compact, it has a right to continue to offer the games because the state violated the tribe’s exclusivity rights by allowing pari-mutuels throughout Florida to offer electronic versions of the games.
As long as the competing lawsuits remain in play, blackjack continues to be offered at the Seminole Tribe casinos, and the tribe is still providing monthly payments to the state. In the meantime the tribe has upped the ante on their other gambling options, including a new room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa dedicated to VIP Slots that launched on February 16.
Reserved specifically for VIP guests, the VIP Slots room features 85 high-limit slot machines, credit office, dedicated cage, ATM, lounge seating, restrooms and service bar. Additionally, continual entertainment is provided by four 75-inch televisions. Others amenities include a private salon area which provides secluded gaming for VIP guests and their guests as well. The private salon area includes four slot machines, which can when requested be changed, a private restroom, a refrigerator that can be pre-stocked with the patron’s favorite beverages, and a seating area with a 75-inch television.