Seminole Tribe of Florida Earns Victory

by Jim Hall

Seminole Tribe of FloridaThe Seminole Tribe of Florida has emerged victorious in their fight against the state in regards to being able to offer banked card games at their casino gaming venues.

For some time now, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has been trying to earn the right to offer house banked card games at the casinos they operate around the state. The tribe wants to offer blackjack and other games but have had to take on several legal battles in order to be able to do so. This week, the tribe was able to win a major battle in their fight for such gaming entertainment.

Federal Ruling in Their Favor

Just yesterday, Robert Hinkle, a Federal Court Judge, ruled in favor of the tribe in the case. Judge Hinkle decided that the state of Florida had been in violation of the terms of contract with the tribe. The state and the tribe had signed a 20 year gambling compact that would allow the tribe to offer such games as blackjack. However, the state choose to allow operators of pari-mutuel gaming to offer card games known as ‘designated player’ options. Such games have a player at a table to act as the house. Normally, this person would be an outside source due to financial requirements.

Back in 2010, the tribe signed the 20 year gaming compact with Florida that would give the tribe five years of exclusive rights to baccarat and blackjack, all house banked card games. The state would then earn $1.7 billion in revenue sharing. However, during the five year time frame, the state decided to authorize the race tracks, both dog and horse, the right to provide the designated player games. The Seminoles felt this was the state going back on their deal of exclusivity for such card games.

New Gaming Compact

Last year, Governor Rick Scott was able to reach an agreement with the tribe for a new gaming compact but this compact was not approved by state legislature by the spring of 2016. In the meantime, the state decided to file a lawsuit that would force the Seminole tribe to cease providing their house banked games. The Seminoles also had filed suit, accusing the state of bargaining in bad faith.

The ruling by Hinkle will allow the tribe to continue to offer the banked card games for the duration of the contract as originally stated. A separate ruling was made in the state this past August where Hinkle called the games known as designated player to be an ‘egregious example of the cardrooms’ attempt to try and evade the prohibition of the banked card games.

The ruling this week will most likely start the negotiations again in efforts to create a replacement compact. The legal footing for the Seminole tribe has been improved which should be helpful for the tribe during a negotiation process. No matter what the decision will be, the state already missed out on quite a bit of cash that would have been provided with the compact that was on the table in the spring. The state would have earned $3.1 billion within the first seven years of operation with that deal.

The fight on the matter has been ongoing for some time. Now it seems the advantage has fallen towards the Seminole tribe. We shall see in the coming weeks or months if the tribe will be able to come to a final agreement with the state and gaming can resume as normal. Only time will tell what the final decision will be in this long and drawn out process.