Seminole Tribe Looks to Protect Interests and Limit Gambling by Joining Slot Lawsuit and Aggressively Urging Compact Negotiations with State Legislators

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent Florida Appeals Court ruling to allow gambling expansion through voter initiated slot machine licenses. Recently, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the court for a rehearing in the matter. Now, the Seminole Tribe has asked to be included in the lawsuit because they fear such expansion harms the Tribes economic wellbeing. The Naples Herald provides the Tribes rationale for joining the suit:  

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has joined state regulators in their request for a rehearing in a game-changing appellate ruling that opened the door for slot machines at a Gadsden County horse track, along with tracks in at least five other counties.

“Only a few decades ago, the tribe and its citizens were impoverished. Today, the tribe’s successful casinos fund tribal programs including health care, the environment, education, and law enforcement, as well as other benefits for tribal members,” Richard wrote in a 19-page “amicus,” or friend-of-the court, brief. “The tribe’s self-sufficiency, and indeed its economic survival, depends upon the revenues from the businesses it has built up in reliance on the substantial exclusivity that it bargained for, and that the state agreed to, in the compact.” 

In the brief, the Tribe argued the clear intent of the Florida Legislature was being ignored in the appellate ruling. The Naples Harald continues: 

Echoing arguments made by Bondi’s lawyers, who called the 2-1 decision issued on May 29 a “jaw-dropping gambling expansion, Richard wrote that the majority failed to take into account what lawmakers intended when they passed the law and approved the compact. The agreement was “intentionally designed to limit the geographical scope of gaming,” Richard wrote.

“It defies logic to conclude that the Legislature would enact a law with the express purpose of limiting the expansion of gaming in Florida and providing for an increase in revenue that is dependent upon Seminole gaming exclusivity and, in the same bill, authorize the spread of gaming to every county in the state and allow any of 65 counties to unilaterally torpedo the compact, thereby causing the loss of billions of dollars in state revenue,” he wrote.

The state’s request asks that the full appeals court rehear the case, which is known as seeking an “en banc” hearing.

Additionally, the Tribe is seeking negotiations on the Seminole Gambling Compact Renewals. A new Compact is key to the state limiting the expansion of future gambling. The Legislature made some attempt to get the negotiation’s ball rolling, but nothing has materialized. A recent maneuver has been attempted by the Tribe in an effort to begin true negotiations. The Sun-Sentinel explains:

The Seminole Tribe has given the state 30 days to strike a new accord about exclusive rights to operate banked card games and has put the state on notice that tribal casinos don’t have to shut down the games even in the absence of a revamped deal.

Billie sent state leaders a “notice of commencement of compact dispute resolution procedures,” setting in motion a 30-day period for both sides to meet over the banked card games, which include blackjack. The dispute resolution mechanism requested by the tribe is included in a 20-year agreement, inked in 2010, that set out the parameters for the Seminoles’ gambling operations in Florida. 

“It’s my opinion that the tribe is utilizing these arguments and the dispute resolution provision to get into a room with state leaders in order to continue a discussion on the balance of the term of the compact and the operation of banked cards,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, a Bradenton lawyer who helped craft the original compact. “From a legal strategy standpoint, it’s a good strategy. I disagree with the arguments that they’re making, but it at least gives them a procedural methodology to negotiate with the state.”

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