Florida-Seminole Gambling Compact Sees Lawsuit Added to Negotiations

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of both the Florida Legislature and the Seminole Nation to successfully negotiated a renewed gambling compact for the state. The deadline passed with no resolution, so the state asked the Seminoles to stop offering card games and the Seminole responded with their own pressure. Then it appeared the two were on the way to a new deal, but one with more expanded gambling implications that some were comfortable with establishing. Arbitration also ensued and other Tribal gambling sources expressed interest in expanding operations into Florida. Now, as the negotiations look to be coming down to the eleventh hour once again, a lawsuit has been brought forth by the Seminole tribe against Florida for violating the exclusivity aspect of the existing agreement. The Tampa Tribune online explains: 

The Seminole Indian Tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday charging that the state of Florida has violated the tribe’s exclusive rights to hold “banked” card games, such as blackjack, at Seminole casinos.

The lawsuit claims the state violated a five-year-old agreement with the tribe in two ways: by allowing dog tracks and other gambling venues in south Florida to hold electronic black jack games, and by permitting pari-mutuel facilities around the state to operate card tables for poker and other games where players bet against each other.

The lawsuit was filed despite ongoing negotiations between the Seminoles and state officials, including the governor’s office and members of the Legislature.

 The Tribe’s position is that this lawsuit is simply to protect their interests in the even the negotiations break down in favor of the state over them. As of now, both sides believe a compact can be agreed upon in time for the January Florida Legislature to approve the measure. The Tamp Tribune continues:

In a news release, James E. Billie, chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, said “significant progress” has been made in the negotiations. Yet the tribe felt a lawsuit was necessary to “protect its interests” should the talks with the state founder.

“The tribe and the state are negotiating either an extension of the compact or a new compact,” said Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the tribe. “Those negotiations are going very well, but because of the timing it was necessary to file this suit now.”

The lawsuit is asking the court for a declaration that would let the tribe expand black jack tables to the two remaining Seminole casinos, Brighton and Big Cypress. The tribe also wants the judge to declare that the state has failed to negotiate in good faith as required by federal law and to order the state and the Seminoles to proceed with negotiations.

Crist called the lawsuit a “formality” and said a new agreement likely will be signed before the end of the year so it can be taken up by the Legislature in January.

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