Florida Tribal Gaming
Federal regulators said the state must "negotiate in good faith" with both the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribes on a compact that would allow expanded gambling in exchange for a part of the profits. In June 2005, for the third time in 15 years, the Seminole Tribe of Florida began talks with the governor over expanding gambling on its reservations. The first two attempts, with then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, ended in stalemate and lawsuits. Tribal leaders contend that the November 2004 amendment that legalized Class III gaming machines at Broward County pari-mutuels entitles them to offer Las Vegas-style slot machines rather than only bingo-style machines. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 allows a tribe to offer the same kinds of gambling as its state, but requires it to secure a compact with the state before offering such games. If Florida didn't negotiate fairly, the Secretary of the Interior would have ultimately given approval.
In November 2007, the U.S. Department of the Interior set a deadline of 15 November for the state and the Seminole Tribe to reach an agreement. One day before the deadline, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a 25-year compact with the tribe. Legislative leaders spoke out against the compact, saying that they must approve the agreement. In the middle of November, House Speaker Marco Rubio filed suit against the governor. In July 2008, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Crist overstepped his authority when he unilaterally allowed the Seminole Tribe to exclusively offer baccarat and blackjack at their casinos. However, by the end of January 2008, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino had begun offering 1,000 Class III slot machines and paid $50 million to the state as part of the $100 million a year for 25 years agreed upon in the compact.
In June 2008, Pompano Park's Isle Casino filed a lawsuit to stop the Seminole Tribe from offering blackjack at its casinos. In July 2008, a federal judge announced he could not block the Seminole Tribe from offering blackjack at its casinos. He also indicated that the tribe cannot be sued for any reason in the U.S.
In July 2008, the Seminole Tribe requested the state's high court reconsider its decision to invalidate the gambling compact signed by Gov. Crist. In September 2008, Attorney General Bill McCollum asked federal gaming officials to shut down the Seminoles' expanded casino operations, including blackjack, baccarat and Vegas-style slots, based on the state Supreme Court ruling. In October 2008, the NIGC sent a letter to the Seminole Tribe asking them to explain their position regarding the Class III gaming. In November 2008, the tribe began dealing blackjack and other games in its Tampa casino despite the Florida Supreme Court's ruling.
In May 2009, both the House and Senate passed legislation that allows the Seminole Tribe to keep the games they are currently offering and helps their competitors compete against them. The legislation lowers the tax rate on the seven pari-mutuel casinos and opens the door to additional games with legislative approval. The legislation also authorized Gov. Crist to renegotiate the compact with the Seminoles. In June 2009, Gov. Crist signed the bill, officially expanding casino gambling. The deal guarantees the state a minimum of $150 million a year of casino profits in exchange for the tribe's ability to operate games such as baccarat, chemin de fer and blackjack in its seven casinos.
In April 2010, the state signed a new compact with the Seminole Tribe, allowing it to operate table games at tribal casinos, in exchange for which the tribe would contribute 10% of the net revenues to the state education fund and agree not to challenge the expanded hours of operation and elimination of betting limits at card rooms in the state.
The flurry of debate over a major proposal to develop destination gaming resorts ended in early 2012. Opposition came from not only the anti-gambling sector but also the Seminole Tribe and the pari-mutuel establishments. The legislature, however, canceled the bill in February before its planned vote.
In April 2012, Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 155, which banned Internet cafés and gaming centers, affecting about 1,000 operations across the state.
In 2013, the Seminole Tribe generated so much revenue from its casino operations that it triggered a clause in its compact requiring an additional payment of $4.3 million to the state.
In late 2015, Gov. Scott signed a gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe that would generate $3 billion in added revenue to the state over seven years, but the compact did not pass because the legislature failed to consider it. The compact would have allowed Seminole casinos continued exclusive rights to offer blackjack and expanded those rights to craps and roulette, which are prohibited at other gambling facilities in the state. The tribe had promised to spend $1.8 billion to expand its casinos in Tampa and Hollywood, as well as add thousands of new jobs, as part of the compact. As a result of the legislature's failure to act, the issue may end up being decided by the courts. A compact that gave the Seminoles exclusive rights to blackjack tables expired in 2015.
In November 2016, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the Seminole Tribe of Florida may continue to offer banked games for the entirety of the 2010 Seminole Compact – until 2030 – after the state broke an exclusivity deal by allowing "designated-player" card games. That same month, the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation began sending out letters warning card room operators about the ruling.
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