With an August 31st, 2009 deadline looming, the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida is seeking vital concessions before it will approve a big-dollar gaming agreement with Florida, casting doubts over the late-hour gaming negotiations. The priority list of the tribe includes lowering yearly payments to the state, from $150 million to $125 million, limiting future competition from other gaming locations and allowing blackjack at its Naples casino.
George Lemieux, Governor Charlie Crist's former chief of staff who is helping broker the gaming talks said that the issues in question are always the same like the gaming exclusivity and where and what kind of casino games that the tribe can offer. Lemieux said that money and regulations are also important issues. Governor Crist and the Seminole tribe have until the end of the month to finalize the terms on a fifteen-year gaming agreement.
The gaming compact would permit the Seminole tribe to continue offering banked card games like blackjack and Class III slot machines at their gaming facilities in Broward County and one in Tampa, Florida. But several unresolved issues remain like the $150 million annual payments that the tribe needs to give the state. It is a fifty percent increase from the first gaming compact negotiated by Governor Crist in 2007. The tribe wants the annual payment lowered to $125 million.
The Seminoles wants a more specific exclusivity provision which will ensure that the tribe is the only gaming operation in the state of Florida to offer blackjack and slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward County.
Under the proposal of the legislature, the tribe would have to keep paying Florida even if other gaming establishments got similar games, as long as the Seminole's revenue did not take a big hit. Florida legislators also the Seminole tribe to shut down its blackjack games at its Immokalee casino near Naples. But the tribe wants to keep those blackjack games running.
Recognizing those gaming changes will be a hard sell, Governor Crist's representative have enlisted legislators to join the talks. But the legislature's representative on the gaming issue, Rep. Bill Galvano (Republican-Bradenton) said that tribe should not expect anymore changes since they have spent a lot of time of discussing the issue.
Galvano said that types of changes that the Seminole tribe wants are not necessarily small changes but big ones. The tribe's attorneys and the Hard Rock Chief Executive Officer, Jim Allen, could not be reached for comment regarding the issue.
Wednesday, August 19 , 2009