Florida Gaming Negotiations with Seminole Tribe Progressing

Posted on: August 24, 2015, 10:37h. 

Last updated on: August 24, 2015, 10:40h.

Florida State Senator Rob Bradley Seminole talks
Florida State Senator Rob Bradley and the Seminole casinos are in negotiations over the tribe’s exclusive rights to banked card games in the Sunshine State. (Image: tampabay.com)

Florida is involved in some serious talks, and the outcome is no game.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has enjoyed the exclusive right to offer banked card games, such as blackjack, in the Sunshine State over the last several years. That clause was up for extension recently, but the two sides seemed unable or unwilling to reach an agreement.

However, the stalemate that has lingered over the issue in recent months may be clearing, though no agreement has yet been reached. According to reports, talks have resumed between the two sides, something that could potentially lead to an accord before an October deadline that would likely necessitate legal action or mediation.

Talks Continued Last Week

According to State Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, talks between the government and the Seminole Tribe are back on, with the two sides discussing the issue as recently as last week. Bradley told the News Service of Florida that he attended a meeting with Governor Rick Scott’s top lawyer, in which they discussed the banked games issue.

The problem goes back to 2010, when the Seminoles signed a 20-year compact with the state of Florida to offer gambling at tribal casinos. As part of that agreement, the tribe would have the exclusive rights to banked card games for five years, in exchange for $1 billion in revenue payments to the state.

That agreement expired on July 31, prompting the state to tell the tribe to begin winding down their blackjack tables and other banked card games. They say that the current compact requires these games to be shut down within 90 days of the end of the agreement if a new one can’t be reached.

Tribe Alleges Violations of Compact by State

However, the tribe disagrees, saying that the state of Florida violated the compact by allowing race tracks and other parimutuel outlets to operate electronic versions of the card games that were meant to be exclusive to their casinos.

They also contend that the Three Card Poker games available at some racetrack casinos are in violation of the agreement, despite the fact that these games have been changed to be banked by one player who will pay out winning bets, rather than the casino itself.

Because of these violations, the tribe says, they can continue to offer these games even after the looming deadline for their scheduled shutdown. The Seminoles have also accused the state of Florida of violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which could allow the federal court system to ultimately rule on how the agreement should be interpreted.

But that could be avoided if legislators and the Seminoles can come to a settlement that works for both sides before then. And according to Bradley, the two sides are making progress, even if nothing is final just yet.

“We are making progress in discussions with the tribe,” Bradley said. “I’m hopeful that we can reach a point where we have something to offer to the [state legislature] to consider and debate.”

While details of the negotiations have not been released, it is known that both sides have something they want to get out of any talks. The Seminoles have wanted to add roulette and craps to their casinos for some time, while the state may want to limit just how far any exclusivity goes for the tribe in the future.

“The tribe obviously wants to have as much exclusivity as possible,” Bradley said. “But you also have the political realities of finding a majority of votes in both houses and you have to get the governor satisfied.”