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Gov. Crist Renew Talks With Seminoles for New Gaming Compact

Governor Charlie Crist approved on June 15th, 2009 a proposed gambling compact passed by the Florida Legislature on May 6th, 2009. Governor Crist has until August 2009 to form a new compact with the Seminoles.

The Seminole tribe plans to take the gaming issue to the federal government if they fail to make an agreement with Florida officials. If that happens, Florida will not receive anything from Seminole gaming earnings.

The fifteen-year gaming compact calls for the Seminole tribe to pay a guaranteed $150 million yearly payment, for a total of $2.3 billion. Seminole attorney Barry Richard said that if they cannot successfully negotiate a gaming compact, then they will seek federal help to resolve the issue once and for all. The Seminole tribe already offers card gaming at its seven casino facilities but the tribe wants exclusive rights to offer banked card games like blackjack.

Federal rules state that tribes do not have to pay anything to the state, except in exchange for gaming exclusivity. But the gaming compact of the Florida legislature would bar banked card games for three of the tribe's casinos: Immokalee, Brighton and Big Cypress. Immokalee expanded its gaming offering last December 2008 to include blackjack. Tribal lawyers said that it is only partial exclusivity, so the $150 million payment annually may not be justified.

If an impasse happens between the tribe and the state, the Seminoles can petition the Department of Interior to release special procedures to govern the tribe's gaming. That would bypass Florida and it would receive zero money for state. Sterling Ivey, the governor's spokesperson said that as this an ongoing process, both sides will most likely offer changes for consideration.

The tribe was content with the earlier compact negotiated by Gov. Crist in 2007, which provided $100 million a year payment to Florida in return for allowing the Seminoles to offer banked card games at all of their casinos. Richard said that Florida's Supreme Court decided that Gov. Crist did not possess the power to negotiate the gaming compact with the tribe but it did not invalidate the previous gaming compact.

He added that the compact received federal approval so it remains in effect until the concern federal agencies or courts states that it is no longer valid. Richard said that federal agencies have not intervened on the issue so that the Florida and the Seminole tribe may solve their differences on the issue.

 

Tuesday, July 21 , 2009
Thomas Johnson