Seminoles Will Keep Blackjack Open

Even though a compact with the state that approved tables games at tribal casinos will expire on July 31, the Seminole tribe has told Governor Rick Scott that it will not close down its table games at that time because the tribe believes the state had voided the compact by allowing electronic table games at racinos.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has informed Governor Rick Scott and other state officials that it will continue to offer blackjack and other card at its casinos, although that provision of the gaming compact, agreed to five years ago, will expire July 31. Tribal leaders claim they can keep the card games because Florida regulators allowed South Florida racetracks to offer electronic gaming machines, in violation of the compact.

In his letter to Scott, Tribal Council Chairman James Billie called for state and Seminole officials to meet within 30 days to try to resolve the disagreement. If that doesn’t work out, the two parties will go into mediation and eventually federal court. There was no immediate reaction from Scott to the Billie’s letter.

Billie said the Seminoles will continue to make payments to the state for the card games as “a gesture of good faith.” Under the compact, the tribe agreed to pay the state more than $1 billion over five years for exclusive rights to blackjack and other card games at five of its seven casinos.

State Senator Rob Bradley, who oversees the committee responsible for regulating the gambling industry, said he did not agree that state regulators violated the compact, but said Billie’s letter was a “fairly predictable move” intended to jumpstart stalled negotiations. “It’s a move to get us to the table,” he said. Bradley had tried during the legislative session to extend the compact for one more year.

Last year key legislators opposed Scott’s proposal to extend the Seminole compact and allow the tribe to add roulette and craps at its South Florida casinos, as well as build a casino on its Fort Pierce reservation. That proposal would have blocked the construction of any Las Vegas-style casinos in Miami for seven years. In exchange, the Republican governor would have gotten $2 billion for the state.