State of Florida and Seminole Tribe Negotiate before October Deadline
Florida and the Seminoles tribal gaming authority appear to be near a new gaming compact. Over the past week, representatives from the State of Florida and the Seminoles have begun once more. Both sides appear to be taking the discussions serious, as an October deadline looms. A previous looming deadline appeared to have gotten the talks going once more.
On July 25, the Seminole tribe announced it would stop paying taxes on its gaming revenues in 30 days. The Native American gaming council justified its decision by referring to a stipulation in its expiring 2010 contract with the state. The stipulation suggested, if the state licensed anyone but the Seminoles to host casino-banked games, the Seminoles would have the right to stop paying taxes on winnings. The deadline was set for August 24.
August 23 Meetings
On August 23, three representatives of Florida’s leadership met with the Seminoles to discuss an accord.
The three representatives from Florida were Regulated Industries Chairman Rob Bradley , House Regulatory Affairs Chairman Jose Felix Diaz, and Governor Rick Scott’s chief lawyer, Tim Cerio.
In the week-plus since that meeting, the two sides appear to have come much closer than previously assumed to have a working arrangement. Rob Bradley said, “We are now actively engaged in discussions back and forth with the tribe. There is a lot of activity and we’re moving forward. I’m hopeful that we can reach a point where we have something to offer to the membership to consider and debate.”
October Deadline Is Approaching
October 1 is the true deadline when a crisis ensues, if no deal is forthcoming. The first of October is the day when the 2010 compact expires. After that time, no legal framework will exist to regulate the Seminole casinos.
Bradley admitted that August 24 deadline had an effect, but suggested the end of the compact is what is really driving the spirit of compromise. Predicting both sides would agree on a settlement in the month of September, he added, “The closer we get to the deadline, the more pressure is put upon the parties to find a resolution. Deadlines are very useful in that way. I would anticipate that if a deal is to be had, it would be done within the deadlines contained in the agreements.”
New Gaming Compact’s Details
Details of the proposed new compact remain sketchy. The Seminoles appearently would like to expand the number of venues in the state where banked card games like blackjack could take place. The tribe also apparently wants to include roulette and craps on the list of banked card games it can host at those venues.
Having a monopoly on house-banked card games is also important, it would seem. Under the current agreement, the state agreed the Seminoles would have the exclusive right to offer casino-banked games, in exchange for a yearly payment of $250 million.
Sen. Rob Bradley on Seminole Compact
Sen. Bradley said, “The tribe obviously wants to have as much exclusivity as possible. But you also have the political realities of finding a majority of votes in both houses and you have to get the governor satisfied.”
In exchange, the state wants to negotiate more lucrative terms from the Seminoles. The $250 million payment is not enough, says negotiators for the state. One imagines that the state is wanting compensation for the lucrative new concessions they are being asked to make.
Thus, despite charges by the Seminoles that the state is allowing house-banked games through its electronic blackjack machines and player-banked table games like Three-Card Poker, the Seminoles really want to expand their gaming network and list of games which have a monopoly. Meanwhile, the state is focused on collecting more revenues from the next gaming compact.
As with most things in politics, what appears to be is not always what is true.
Any deal by arranged between the state and tribal governments would have to be approved by the U.S. federal government. The department associated with tribal gaming is the U.S. Department of the Interior, which traditionally handled Indian affairs as far back as the 19th century. Thus, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Tribal Affairs will have to approve the compact. Assuming it takes a form similar to the 2010 gaming compact, one can assume approval will be forthcoming.
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