Litigation could be imminent between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribes of Florida as lawmakers appear ready to allow significant portions of the state’s high-stakes gambling deal with the Seminole expire.
In 2010, the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida signed a 20-year compact giving the tribe the right to operate slot machines at all its casinos in return for revenue sharing of at least $1 billion over five years. The deal also gave the tribe exclusivity to allow certain card games including blackjack, baccarat, mini-baccarat, three card poker, let it ride, and Pai Gow poker. That right expires July 31 unless lawmakers approve its renewal or any revision. However, for the time being the Seminole plans to continue to allow the card games at their casinos even after their five year compact with the state ends.
Blackjack tables are required to be shut down within 90 days per the current compact, which is what Ken Lawson, the state’s top gambling regulator wrote in a letter to the tribe’s chairman on Monday. Speculation that litigation will follow the correspondence requesting James Billie, tribe Chairman, meet with state officials regarding their intentions, is increasing.
Citing a violation of the compact by Florida regulators, the Seminoles contend that Blackjack can remain, and until the dispute is resolved as outlined in federal law, the card games will not stop.
There is still a chance for a new deal and the avoidance of litigation between the state and the tribe, according to State Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano. He added that conducting approved gaming is the goal of tribe officials.
Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who was involved in structuring the current contract added, “We’re heading to a point where the state has maximum leverage to negotiate with the tribe.”
In Florida, the imminent battle between the state and tribe for a revision of the state’s gambling laws and the addition of casinos have failed miserably in the state’s legislature, further complicating the state’s gambling landscape.
Five of the seven Seminole Tribe casinos in Florida, two of which include the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Hollywood and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Tampa will be affected by the expiration of the compact. Meanwhile competitors watch anxiously.