Seminoles Settle Blackjack Dispute With Florida

The Seminole Tribe last week settled a disagreement with the state of Florida over whether it can continue to offer blackjack. When the previous compact expired, which was amended to include blackjack, the state sued to stop the game. A state court found in favor of the Seminoles and now the state will not appeal.

The Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida last week reached an agreement ending a dispute over the tribe’s exclusivity to house-banked card games in the state. The tribe sued the state in 2015 claiming that the approval of “player-banked” card games at state parimutuels violated its exclusivity and the state counter-sued, claiming the tribe’s five-year agreement granting the Seminoles exclusivity had expired. A judge ruled in favor of the tribe, which halted millions of dollars in payments it had made to the state in exchange for the exclusivity.

The new deal gives the tribe continued exclusivity under the original compact, which expires in 2030. The tribe will resume payments immediately. Including payments made in escrow, the state will receive $340 million over the next fiscal year. The catch, however, is the state is required to take “aggressive enforcement action” on banked card games and even electronic table games that mimic the real thing. Should that not happen, the tribe can halt payments once again.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation says it will abide by the agreement.

“DBPR is glad that the state of Florida has reached an agreement to resolve the ongoing litigation between the state and the Seminole Tribe,” said DBPR Secretary Jonathan Zachem. “This agreement ensures the continuity of the current Seminole compact and does not allow for any expansion of gaming.”

The challenge for the parimutuels is great since the money paid by the tribe is at least twice as much as the banked games would contribute to the state treasury.

The tribe says it’s a win-win for everyone, however.

“The settlement is one of the rare incidents where everybody benefits,” Barry Richard, attorney for the Seminole Tribe told the Miami Herald. “Nobody gave up anything. The state has an immediate infusion of money, and the tribe gets to continue its games.”

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