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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Seminoles Claim Florida Reneged on Deal

(CN) - The Seminole Tribe of Florida claims in court that the state breached its gaming contract with the tribe by refusing to reauthorize the playing of baccarat, blackjack and other "banked" card games at its casinos.

In a complaint filed in the Tallahassee, Fla. Federal Court, the Seminole tribe says it worked for years to negotiate a compact with the state pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and finally secured one on April 7, 2010.

The compact authorized the tribe to operate class III slot machines and "banking" or "banked" card games, including baccarat, chemin de fer, and blackjack.

In addition to the authorization for class III games specifically defined in the compact, the agreement authorized the tribe to operate "any additional game authorized by Florida law 'for any person for any purpose,'" the complaint says.

In addition to allowing the Seminoles to open large gaming operations on their land, the agreement required the tribe to pay the state a significant share of the net revenue these operations generated.

"Based upon the revenue sharing formula set forth in the Compact, the Tribe has paid the state in excess of $1 billion dollars since the Tribe began to conduct class III gaming in Florida," the complaint says.

The term of the compact runs until July 1, 2030. However, the provision authorizing the tribe to exclusively operate banking or banked card games terminated on July 31, 2015. As set forth by the company, the tribe is prohibited to offer the card games at its Brighton or Big Cypress gaming facilities "unless and until the State of Florida permits any other person, organization or entity to offer such games," the complaint says.

The tribe contend this has already happened because on Feb. 17, 2011, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation authorized gaming -- including banked card games -- at horse racing facilities in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Thus, it says, it is entitled under the compact to continue to operate banking or banked card games, and to begin offering banking or banked card games at its Brighton and Big Cypress gaming facilities.

It also says that when it entered into the early sunseting of the banked card provision of the compact, it was with the understanding that good faith negotiations for its extension would commence before it expired.

But the state sees the situation otherwise, and in July, sent the tribe a letter asking the tribe to provide it with a plan and proposed timeline for the closure of banked card games at its tribal facilities. The parties entered into a mediation process, which ultimately proved unsuccessful. A major sticking point was the state's demand that the tribe substantially increase its payments to the state.

"If the Tribe's authorization to conduct banked card games were to expire, it would mean over 3,000 lost jobs as well as billions of dollars in lost revenues to the State and the Tribe over the remaining term of the Compact," the complaint says.

The tribe is asking the court to declare it has the right to conduct banked card games for the full term of the company at all seven of its gaming locations, that the state failed to negotiate.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is represented by Jim Shore, its general counsel.

Representatives of the parties could not immediately be reached for comment.

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