State Appealing Judges Ruling in Seminole Tribe Blackjack Case

by Kyle Miller

Seminole Tribe of FloridaThe State of Florida has filed an appeal based on a November ruling by Judge Robert Hinkle in the Seminole Tribe blackjack exclusivity case.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state have been at odds for some time now over the gaming operations that the tribe offer. In the past, the tribe had exclusive rights to offer blackjack gaming. Once their compact lapsed, the tribe continued to offer gaming stating they were not in violation of the law due to the state having violated their previous compact. Last year, a judge ruled in favor of the tribe and now the state has decided to appeal the ruling.

A Little Back Story

A gambling compact was created back in 2010 between the tribe and the state in which the tribe was given the opportunity to offer blackjack and be the sole provider. The tribe would be given exclusive rights until 2015. Once summer came in 2015, the compact was no longer valid. However, the tribe continued to offer the games stating that the state had been in violation of the terms of the deal from 2010.

The tribe accused the state of allowing pari-mutuels to offer games that were similar in nature to the blackjack games the Seminole tribe provided during the time in which the tribe was to have exclusive rights. Since 2015, the tribe and the state have been back and forth with each other, one suing the other in efforts to solve the problem.

A new agreement was finally reach last year thanks to Governor Rick Scott but this agreement was not agreed upon by lawmakers. The tribe would have been given exclusive rights for the games yet again and the state would be provided $3 billion in tax payments by the tribe for the first seven years of operations.

The Deal Fell Flat

Because the deal fell flat, the tribe had to try other tactics. In a court ruling, United States District Judge Robert Hinkle decided to rule in favor of the tribe in their legal battle against the state. Hinkle stated that officials of the state had violated the first compact by allowing card games to be offered at the pari-mutuels. The games resembled the ones exclusive to the Seminole tribe. With the ruling from November, the tribe was given exclusive rights to offer the blackjack games until the year 2030.

The state was not happy with this ruling and late last week filed an appeal within the courts. The state has not provided details as to their grounds for appeal and the Seminole tribe feels the appeal is no surprise since they have continued to fight with the state on this matter.

When the appeal was filed by the state, it took place at the same time as when a new omnibus gambling bill is being reviewed in the state. The bill has 112 pages and would take care of several aspects of gaming in the state including the issue with the tribe. The bill, known as SB 8, is sponsored by Bill Galvano who would see the Seminoles not offered exclusive rights to blackjack but give them other games like roulette and craps.

The tribe and the state continue to be at a disagreement. It will be interesting to see over time if this bill will help to resolve this issue or if other discussions will be had on the subject. We could see a new ruling in the case that might change things. But for now, the tribe has the upper hand.