Seminole Tribe Wins Court Case Versus Florida over Banked Card Games
A federal judge decided on Wednesday that the Seminole Tribe has the legal right to offer blackjack and other banked card games in their land-based gaming venues over the next 14 years. The Seminoles were battling the state of Florida in the court case.
The decision by Judge Robert Hinkle assures that blackjack can be offered by the Seminoles until 2030 at the very least. It also means that the state of Florida is likely to receive fewer revenues from land-based gambling over that time. Florida’s faces budget concerns over the next few years, so the loss of revenues is significant.
Florida v. Seminole Tribe
Florida and the Seminole Tribe sued each other, bringing on the bitter court case. Florida’s lawyers argued that the Seminole casinos could not offer blackjack after the first 5 years of the 20-year agreement.
The tribe argued that it had the right to offer banked games for the full 20-year contract, because the state violated its gaming compact with the tribe when it allows pari-mutuel racetrack casinos to offer electronic blackjack, along with other electronic banked games.
A spokesman for Florida Governor Rick Scott told the News Services of Florida that the governor’s office was reviewing Judge Hinkle’s order. Therefore, neither Gov. Scott nor his officials gave a statement on the decision.
Gary Bitner Is “Very Pleased”
Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the Seminoles, released the following statement: “The Seminole Tribe is very pleased with Judge Hinkle’s ruling and is carefully reviewing it. The Tribe believes the ruling provides for its future stability and ensures 3,600 Seminole Gaming employees will keep their jobs.”
The dispute was over a potential 20-year deal signed by the state and the tribe in 2010 — not the 2015 compact which was supposed to end the dispute. The 2010 compact stipulated that the Native American tribe would receive exclusive rights to handle banked games in its 7 Florida-based casinos for the first 5 years of the compact. The deal stipulated billions more in revenues over the remaining 15 years of the compact.
Banked Card Games through 2030
The Seminoles argued in court that the deal allowed them exclusive rights to banked games through the year 2030. If the state allowed other venues to offer such gaming, the Seminoles would not have to pay its stipulated revenues.
That began at racinos in the state, as electronic blackjack and electronic roulette was supported in those venues. State officials argued that the compact referred to traditional banked games using dealers, instead of electronic games. The Seminoles argued differently.
The Seminoles argued that the casinos in question allowed designated-player games, which broke the terms of the compact. Designated-player games allow a player to stand-in for the casino’s dealers in those games. Seminole lawyers cited the designated-player game as an “egregious example of the cardrooms’ attempt to evade the prohibition on banked card games.”
The federal judge agreed with the tribe on Wednesday, which means the state of Florida is likely to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in gaming tax revenues. Like most US states, Florida is facing tough budget decisions, so the loss of huge tax revenues from gambling is an “egregious” error on the part of Rick Scott’s administration.
What Are Banked Card Games?
Banked card games are those card games in which the casino (or one player) covers the bets. Poker is not a banked card game, because it is one gambler’s money in the pot against a table full of player’s money. The casino takes a rake of the action, but otherwise does not have a stake in the game.
In a game like blackjack, though, it is the player versus the dealer. In this case, the casino has a stake in the game. Blackjack therefore is a banked game. Any game in which the casino acts as the bank or the opponent is therefore a banked game. Other banked card games are Baccarat (Punto Banco), Chemin de Fer, and Faro.
The legal question in the case of the Florida banked card games is whether electronic blackjack is a banked card game or not. Most states see electronic blackjack as a banked game, though a few do not.
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