Florida State & Seminole Tribe in Court over Exclusive Gambling Deal and Gambling Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing nature of the gambling compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. They operated under an ongoing exclusive agreement that provided Seminole gambling facilities exclusive rights to table games in exchange for a specified revenue stream to the state of Florida. That deal came to an end and a new compact had to be renegotiated. A new deal was worked between the Seminoles and Florida Gov. Scott, but it was full of extra gambling expansion and provisions that the Florida legislature rejected. The Seminoles and Florida government had been operating in good faith to uphold the exclusivity agreement while payments were being made to the state after the fact, but then they authorized games by other gambling facilities. Now a new trial has taken place that will seemingly be ruled in favor of the Seminoles. The Sun Sentinel online explains:

A three-day trial that could shape the future of gambling in the state ended Wednesday. Attorneys for the tribe maintained during the trial that regulators who work for the Scott administration allowed dog and horse tracks to offer card games and an electronic blackjack game that mimicked the tribe’s casino games. They said that under the initial deal, the tribe would be allowed to keep blackjack for another 15 years if the state allowed someone else to have the same type of gambling.

But attorneys hired by the state disagreed with that assertion and suggested that the tribe was trying to find a way to keep blackjack tables that it is no longer entitled to keep. Top regulators for the state testified that they began to crack down on illegal card operations once they became aware of it.

The judge has not yet ruled on the case but his statements during the trial seemed to very cleanly indicated he was siding with the Seminoles. The impact of this ruling will have very clear impacts on the expansion of gambling in Florida and who will be allowed or not allowed to offer such games. The Sunshine State News explains: 

A federal judge appeared convinced Wednesday that Florida gambling regulators’ decision to allow controversial card games violated an agreement with the Seminole Tribe that gave tribal casinos exclusive rights to conduct “banked” games such as blackjack. “The state has permitted banked card games to go on (at pari-mutuel facilities). … It’s a stretch for you to convince me that the state did not permit that,” Hinkle, who is expected to rule in the coming weeks, told Moe.

Hinkle pointed to testimony from the Seminoles’ expert witness, Jimmie Ray Kilby, who defined a banking or banked card game as one in which all players play against the bank, instead of against each other. “Everybody in the industry knows that’s a banked game,” Hinkle said. 

[Additionally, he said,] “The state of Florida says if the secretary of DBPR (the Department of Business and Professional Regulation) says we’re going to allow banking games in flat-out competition with the tribe, this provision would not be extended beyond five years (because the Legislature didn’t authorize it)?” an exasperated Hinkle asked. “You’re not going to win that argument. You’re just not.” Department Secretary Ken Lawson, who was present for Wednesday’s closing arguments, would not respond to questions from reporters.

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