Seminole Dilemma Clouds Florida Revenue Forecasts

With the banked-cards provision of the Seminole compact ending this month, Florida economists are unable to prepare revenue forecasts. The tribe gave the state $1 billion over five years in exchange for exclusive rights to banked card games. Now the state faces mediation or a lawsuit if the situation goes unresolved.

Recently when asked about the status of negotiations with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Governor Rick Scott said, “I’m going to take the right amount of time to do the right thing for the taxpayers of the state.” Meanwhile, Friday is the deadline when the state must enter dispute resolution talks with the tribe, face forced mediation or be sued.


Last month, Seminole Chairman James Billie sent Scott a letter stating the tribe will continue to offer blackjack and other banked card games at five of its seven casinos until 2030, when the tribe’s compact with the state expires. A provision of the compact which expires at the end of this month has allowed the tribe exclusive rights in offering the card games in exchange for $1 billion over five years. Under the compact, the tribe must end the card games within 90 days if a new agreement isn’t signed.


Billie said the state reneged on the agreement when it allowed electronic blackjack and player-banked poker elsewhere in the state, including at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. Billie said the tribe would continue making payments to the state “as a gesture of good faith pending the resolution of this dispute.”


Until the dispute is resolved, state budget forecasters are at a loss. Amy Baker, chief economist for the Florida legislature, said, “We may just hold it as a footnote until we know what the governor and the legislature intend to do.” The Revenue Estimating Conference recently met at the Capitol but could not estimate how much revenue to factor into forecasts from Seminole card games, if any.


Last year the tribe contributed $248.5 million into the state’s general revenue account, with another $7 million to local governments. The tribe’s


Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa generates more than $1 billion annually.