The drama over blackjack in the state of Florida ensues as a federal court in Tallahassee is being asked by Governor Rock Scott’s administration to dismiss a suit filed last month by the Seminole Tribe.
The suit filed by the Seminoles is based on the original agreement between the Seminole 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. The Seminole wants the cases consolidated in the Northern District, however, a filing by the state on Tuesday requests the court to either dismiss or transfer the tribe’s lawsuit to the Tampa court. The state’s lawyers contend that because the Seminole’s gambling activity takes place in the Middle District that is the most appropriate venue.
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. The Seminole’s arguments are rejected by the state and the dismissal it seeks accuses the tribe of prematurely filing its lawsuit, since the compact in its entirety doesn’t expire until 2030. To that point, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation general counsel William Spicola wrote, “The best that can be said about the tribe’s failure-to-negotiate claim is that it is 15 years premature,” according the Sunshine State News. Spicola’s department oversees gambling in Florida.
The latest court battle follows the joint effort between House and Senate leaders and Governor Scott’s general counsel, Tim Ceiro, to create a new agreement with the tribe that would have allowed the addition of roulette and craps to the Seminole’s casino operations. The $3 billion over seven years the tribe had agreed to pay Florida in exchange more than doubles the $1 billion over five year agreement for the card games exclusivity.
The looming litigation seems to indicate that there is little hope of an agreement between the Seminole and Governor Scott’s office. Directly impacted by the lawsuits are five of the tribes seven casinos including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood; the former being one of the world’s most lucrative casinos. More than $1 billion in revenue has been shared with the state since 2010 by the Seminole.