Seminole Tribe Is 10 Days away from Ceasing Gaming Payments to Florida
The Seminole Tribe’s 30-day notice on a new gaming compact is 10 days away from expiring. If the deadline passes, then the Seminoles intend on continuing to offer banked games to customers, but cease payments to the state.
The tribe argues that the state has been breaking the compact for some time, but they have been willing to negotiate clearer terms in good faith. The state’s leaders believe the non-tribal gaming interests in the state are conducting legal games, under terms of the compact.
30-Day Notice on Negotiations
On July 25, Seminole leader James Billie sent a “notice of commencement of compact dispute resolution procedures.”
The notice was a part of a legal process allowed under the stipulations of a 20-year compact signed between the state of Florida and the tribe back in 2010.
In the letter, James Billie told the state, “While the tribe could have exercised its right to [stop its payments to the state] immediately, it has thus far elected to continue making its payments to the state and, as a gesture of good faith, intends to continue making its payments to the state pending the resolution of this dispute.”
Monopoly on Banked Games
The Seminoles gave Florida’s negotiators 30 days to reach an agreement on the tribe’s monopoly over banked card games like blackjack. In a banked games, the player is gambling with the casino (the dealer) as the adversary. The money on the line is the casino’s and not another player’s, as it would be in poker. The Seminoles and no one else can offer such games.
It is a lucrative monopoly. Under the compact, the Seminoles agreed to pay the state $1 billion over a 5-year period for that right. Under the 20-year compact, if anyone else is allowed to offer banked games, then the Seminoles do not have to pay their gaming taxes to the state. Therefore, if no agreement is reached by August 24, the Seminoles no longer plan to pay revenues to Florida’s treasury.
What Happens after August 24?
What happens then is still a matter of speculation. James Billie indicated that the tribe plans to continue offering blackjack, which it believes remains its exclusive right. The tribe also believes failure to come to terms is a violation of the exclusivity agreement.
Reasons for the Dispute
Two types of games are at issue in the current impasse. The Seminoles are concerned about video blackjack and video roulette, which are allowed at parimutual racetracks throughout the state. The tribe believes those games should be considered banked, since electronic blackjack is simply a simulated version of twenty-one.
The tribe also takes exception to a game called Three-Card Poker. In Three-Card Poker, the game is banked by another player at the table, like they do in baccarat. The Seminoles argue that player-banked games should be considered the same as casino-banked games. To back their contention, the casino states that player-banked games are considered to be the same as casino-banked games across the United States.
Experts Suggest Ultimatum Is a Bluff
Most pundits believe the Seminoles are not likely to go through with their ultimatum, but they are using the 30-day notice as a means of applying pressure to the state to make a deal.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, a Republican from Bradenton, said that the Seminoles’ notice is a solid negotiating tactic. Sen. Galvano said, “From a legal strategy standpoint, it’s a good strategy. I disagree with the arguments that they’re making, but it at least gives them a procedural methodology to negotiate with the state.”
In other words, the tribe is tightening the screws a bit. It is hard to believe the 30-day notice is a bluff. If the deadline comes and the Seminoles take no action, they lose all credibility they’ll challenge the state. Expect to see payments cease in late-August, if no agreement is made. What happens next is anyone’s guess.