Florida asks court to close tribal blackjack tables

Nov 2, 2015 10:00 AM

The low-key negotiations aimed at preserving the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s exclusive hold on casino gambling in its seven casinos may have come to an abrupt halt.

Next stop: the courthouse...maybe.

Both sides – the state and the tribe – have filed federal court lawsuits. The state sued last week, asking the court to shutdown the blackjack games offered by the Seminoles, their argument being that the five-year compact and 90-day grace period have all expired.

The tribe argues that it has a right to continue dealing the games because the state breached the compact by allowing south Florida racinos to operate electronic versions of blackjack.

The five-year-compact netted the state more than $ 1 billion. The tribe has said that the state was offering an extension but that it was demanding more money “without a proportionate increase in economic benefit to the tribe.”

Gov. Rick Scot has been reluctant to offer details about the state’s view of the compact talks. Just days before he filing of the state’s suit last week he was saying only that he would do “the right thing for the state.”

Casinos operated by the Seminoles include two of the most profitable in the U.S., these being the Hard Rock resorts just east of Tampa near the intersection of major freeways and on the lower east coast in Hollywood.

With their rights to the Hard Rock brand the Seminoles are in the process of becoming a major economic powerhouse. Projects in their pipeline include a partnership in the plan to build a casino in north New Jersey at the Meadowlands entertainment complex. This requires the approval of voters in November 2016

In the meantime, the Seminoles and the anti-gaming Disney company have been able to block the entrance of other casino companies into the state. The Las Vegas Sands recently declared that it was abandoning Florida and would focus on a plan to bring a major casino resort to the Atlanta, Georgia area.

But other casino companies have either property or options on property that could be used for casinos if the state legislature makes that possible.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected].