Florida Governor and Seminole Tribe Reach Gambling Deal

A new deal sees the state of Florida continuing to receive gambling payments from the Seminole Tribe.

After renewed negotiations, Governor Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe have reached a new gambling deal agreement. The tribe has now agreed to continue paying over $300m (€242m) a year to the state from casino gaming revenues while maintaining exclusive rights to particular casino games.

The Seminole Tribe is an Indian gaming operator based in the state of Florida that has been in operation since the late 1970s. The tribe has made large payment contributions to the state over the past few years, based on a gambling agreement from 2010 and will continue to do so, thanks to a recent agreement made with Governor Scott. With the new deal, the tribe will make payments to the state through the 2019 legislative session. In exchange for the cash, the Seminole Tribe will maintain exclusive rights to provide certain casino games like blackjack. They will also be the only operator of slot machine gaming located outside Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.

Understanding tribal gaming

In the United States, Native American tribal governments that are federally recognized have the right to operate gambling enterprises on reservations or tribal lands. Business operations can include full casino facilities as well as slot parlors, bingo, lottery gaming, video poker, etc. Laws in the United States recognize forms of tribal sovereignty as well as self-government, which allow native-owned casinos to have a form of immunity from direct regulation by an individual state.

Tribal gaming operators must comply with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 along with other federal laws as they offer gaming in their region. To provide casino gaming operations in this manner, tribes like the Seminole will create a compact or agreement with the state. The Seminole Tribe was actually the first to create an Indian casino when they opened a high-stakes bingo parlor in Florida back in 1979.

Due to such agreements with the state, the Seminole Tribe has provided billions of dollars in payments to Florida over the years. The agreement made this week stems from developments that began when provisions of the Seminole Tribe’s 2010 compact agreement expired in 2015. The expired provision gave the tribe exclusive rights to offer banked card games like blackjack.

The tribe continued to make their payments to the state, despite the expired provision, but the money provided was in jeopardy as a dispute erupted involving the designated player games being offered at pari-mutuel venues, which are state-regulated and not owned by the tribe.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the tribe in a case involving these games, stating that the designated-player games were in breach of the exclusive rights of the tribe over banked card games. The tribe then decided to continue to pay the state, as long as gaming regulators agreed to enforce how the pari-muteul facilities operated the designated player games.

A new deal

Last month, a temporary deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe expired, so a new round of negotiations began. Yesterday, the office of Governor Rick Scott announced that an agreement had been reached, with the payments to continue until May 2019.

Governor Rick Scott said: “Today, I am proud to announce that the state of Florida has reached an agreement with the Seminole Tribe which ensures the tribe’s current commitment remains intact. Since I took office, the Seminole compact (the 2010 agreement) has generated more than $1.75b (€1.41) which has helped our state make historic investments in things like Florida’s education and environment.”

Despite the new deal, the Florida House and Senate continue to work on creating a gambling bill before the November election takes place. In November, voters will be able to decide to approve an amendment to the constitution that would make it more difficult for the state to expand the gambling industry. If the amendment is approved, voters would have to approve any future gambling expansions, something that is mainly controlled now by the state legislature.