The Seminole Tribe of Florida found a friend in court Wednesday when a federal judge rejected the State of Florida’s bid to end an ongoing lawsuit filed by the tribe. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle refused the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the gaming tribe in October.
The tribe contends that the expiration of a 5-year compact with the state giving them exclusive rights to offer blackjack does not end their ability to offer the games as the state breached certain terms of the compact before it expired, and that the state did not negotiate in good faith by allowing others to offer similar games.
Last month Governor Rick Scott reached a new agreement with the tribal enterprise which would allow them to continue offering blackjack and add other table games such as roulette and blackjack. That deal however may face a hard time in the Legislature and not be approved. Lawmakers will begin reviewing the deal next week. The $3.1 billion windfall the tribe would tender to the state over the next 20 years in exchange for a more limited, regional exclusivity deal while expanding other gambling venues in the state will be hard for some lawmakers to reject. However certain provisions within the agreement, such as an end to the requirement of live racing to go along with slots and other games at some venues would kill the horse racing industry in the state according to opponents. Other special interests are also against the deal.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce recently commissioned a poll that found that Floridians who have an opinion believe the agreement has been good for the state – by a margin of three to one. Respondents also overwhelmingly believed that the Seminole Tribe had kept up its end of the bargain in the compact that expired last year. In contrast to the hell-fire and brimstone predictions of a ruined Florida moral fabric before the agreement five years ago, a full 95% of Florida voters say that they consider the state’s entertainment options to be “family-friendly.” The poll was conducted December 28-30, 2015 by Public Opinion Strategies.
In an expression of support for the new gaming compact, the Florida Chamber states on their website that, “The Compact will result in $3 billion in revenue to Florida over seven years, which is three times the guarantee of the prior Compact. Additionally, the Compact will not only save 3,500 jobs, but will also generate 15,000 new jobs.”