The Seminole Tribe Of Florida is in federal court this week arguing that it should be able to keep the sole right to offer “banked” card games such as blackjack at most of its casinos in the southern state.
According to a report from The News Service Of Florida, the federally-recognized tribe is asking the United States District Court For The Northern District Of Florida to permit it to keep offering the games on an “exclusive” basis in Florida despite the expiry of this portion of its gaming compact last summer.
The Seminole Tribe Of Florida inked a 20-year gaming compact in 2010 that gave it exclusive rights to operate slots outside of Miami-Dade County and Broward County while additionally granting exclusivity regarding banked card games, which see players compete against the house instead of other competitors such as in poker. However, this five-year monopoly portion of the deal has now lapsed and the tribe is accusing the state of failing to negotiate in “good faith” on a new agreement.
In return for exclusivity in Florida’s banked card games market, the Seminole Tribe Of Florida arranged to pay the state a minimum of $1 billion over five years, which it exceeded. The previous deal additionally gave the tribe a 90-day “grace period” following the expiration of this portion of the original compact on July 31, 2015.
The Seminole Tribe Of Florida claims that it requested negotiations regarding card game exclusivity in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and twice reached deals with Republican governor Rick Scott. But, these arrangements failed to receive sufficient support in Tallahassee with the tribe accusing legislators of seeking an entirely new compact instead of focusing solely on card games.
As part of his opening arguments, Barry Richard, a lawyer for the Seminole Tribe Of Florida, told United States District Judge Robert Hinkle that the “seminal issue in this case is exclusivity” while “everything” else “really flows from that issue”.
“The governor and legislature said to the tribe “We will not negotiate a renewal unless you renegotiate the entire compact and give us a whole lot more money”,” Richard declared. “By any standard, by any standard under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, this is not good-faith negotiating by the state”.
In return, Carter Andersen, an attorney working for the state’s Department Of Business And Professional Regulation, told Hinkle that the banked card games the tribe operates are illegal under Florida law. He proclaimed that “many in the industry push the limits of state law” and do “whatever they can get away with” but that the Division Of Pari-Mutuel Wagering “has not decided” and will never decide what is allowed.
“There will not be any evidence to suggest this division either intended to permit or actually permitted a banked card game,” said Andersen.
In better news, the Seminole Tribe Of Florida has announced that its Hard Rock International subsidiary has purchased the casino and hotel-casino rights for the western United States and select international markets from affiliates of Bref HR, which owns the Hard Rock Hotel And Casino Las Vegas.
As a result, Hard Rock International is now exclusively entitled to develop, own, license, franchise and manage Hard Rock-branded casinos and hotel-casinos in the western United States including Minnesota as well as in Australia, Brazil, Israel, Venezuela and Vancouver, British Columbia. Bref HR is to continue to own and operate the Hard Rock Hotel And Casino Las Vegas but Hard Rock International will assume its agreements and existing licensees for the Hard Rock Hotel And Casino Lake Tahoe, the Hard Rock Hotel And Casino Sioux City, the Hard Rock Hotel And Casino Tulsa and the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver.
“This is a historic day for the brand and we could not be prouder to announce this acquisition that we believe ignites the path for further expansion around the globe,” said Jim Allen, Chairman for Hard Rock International. “With the newly acquired rights the Hard Rock brand has now been united for the first time in more than 35 years under one controlling ownership, the Seminole Tribe Of Florida, allowing for globally consistent customer service and standards at all of our locations.”
Hard Rock International explained that its portfolio will now consist of some 23 hotels and eleven casinos as well as over 165 Hard Rock Cafes spread across 71 countries.