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Gov. Charlie Crist and Seminoles Starts Preliminary Talks on Gaming Compact Issue

Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe of Florida started negotiating a new gaming compact on July 1st, 2009 that would bring revenue to Florida in exchange for the tribe's exclusive rights on some of its casino games like blackjack.

George LeMieux, a lawyer from Tallahassee and Gov. Crist's former chief of staff who will be a part of the governor's negotiating team said that lawyers for Governor Crist and the Seminole tribe met in Tallahassee to set schedules for the negotiation and study the important issues that needed to be discussed. They will resume talks in mid-July with a goal of completing the discussions by August 31st, 2009.

Governor Crist must re-negotiate the gaming agreement he signed in 2007 with the Seminole tribe because it was cancelled by the Florida Supreme Court a year ago. Since then, the legislature of Florida approved he legislation that lays out the groundwork for what Governor Crist should accomplish in his negotiations with the Seminole tribe.

Under those legislative guidelines, Florida would give the Seminole tribe the exclusive right to offer Class III slot machines outside of the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward and the right to offer banked card games like blackjack-in the counties of Hillsborough and Broward. In return, the Seminole tribe would be expected to pay Florida at least $150 million dollars annually.

Barry Richard, one of the Seminole tribe's lead lawyers, has stated that the amount of money that the tribe needs to pay annually is too high and the legislative conditions are not acceptable because they would require the Seminole tribe to continue paying-although at a lesser rate-if legislators permit casino games to other pari-mutuels in Florida in the near future.

LeMieux said that he expects the Seminole tribe to reach an agreement with Florida despite those misgivings. He said that the Seminole tribe is very professional and he believes that the tribe will negotiate in good faith to get something done compared with failing to reach a final agreement.

The issues will be the same as they were during the negotiations in 2007 like which casino games will the Seminole tribe get exclusive rights to, how much it will pay Florida, how many casino facilities will be permitted to feature blackjack and other card games and how much regulation will the Seminole tribe will have to follow. The goal of Gov. Crist's office and the Seminole is to have a gaming compact finalize by August 31st, 2009, the deadline legislators set out in the agreement. Gov. Crist's team will also include his general counsel Rob Wheeler and his chief of staff Eric Eikenberg.

LeMieux stated that he volunteering his services to the negotiations to keep some continuity. A spokesperson for the tribe, Gary Bitner said that the Seminole tribe is happy that the talks are going on again and looks forward to the resolution of the whole issue.


Monday, August 10 , 2009
Victor Sanchez