Seminoles resume Negotiations with Florida to keep Blackjack Games

For months now, the State Tribal Compact between the Seminoles and Florida has been up in the air. The original contract, which gave the tribe exclusive rights to offer banked tables games at its casinos, expired last month, but with 90 days to comply with the removal of its blackjack tables, negotiations are finally progressing.

Seminoles resume talks with Florida over blackjack compactAt present, the Seminoles have until October to remove all of the banked table games from their Florida casinos. However, now that headway is finally being made, they may be able to sign a new compact before the deadline arrives.

News of the renewed talks came on Friday by way of a Rob Bradley, Chairman of Senate Regulated Industries. Within the last two weeks, Jose Felix Diaz, Chairman of House Regulatory Affairs, Tim Cerio, chief council for Gov. Rick Scott and Senator Bradley met with the tribe’s leaders to discuss the terms of a new agreement.

The original compact, signed by former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010, guaranteed the state $1 billion (minimum $200 per annum) in exchange for giving five of the Seminole’s seven casinos the exclusive right to install banked tables games like blackjack on their gaming floors. That agreement expired on July 31, 2015 after negotiations came to a stalemate earlier this year.

Florida state officials and tribal leaders are both hoping to complete the negotiation of a new contract before the October deadline, but there’s still a rift to bridge before that can happen. The terms of the agreement will directly affect the state’s pari-mutuel industry in such a way that some state legislators have compared the casino compact to a “three-dimensional game of chess”.

“We are making progress in discussions with the tribe,” said Sen. Bradley on Friday. “I’m hopeful that we can reach a point where we have something to offer to the membership to consider and debate.”

By bringing in leaders of the Senate and House, Bradley feels Florida will be able to complete the negotiations with the Seminole Tribe before the 90 days run out.

Thus far, no specifics are being released, but it’s already known that the Seminoles are seeking to expand on the original deal. The tribe hopes to extend its banked table games beyond blackjack to include roulette and craps, and would like to see the games available at all seven of their Florida casinos rather than being restricted to the five operations included in the previous compact.

Florida representatives will clearly want to expand their end of the bargain as well by receiving more than the previous $200 million per year they were guaranteed. But in terms of exclusivity—which the tribe demands—not only would Florida have to approve it, the federal government would as well.

“The tribe obviously wants to have as much exclusivity as possible,” explained Bradley. “But you also have the political realities of finding a majority of votes in both houses and you have to get the governor satisfied.”

Representatives of the Seminole Tribe have declined to comment on the progress of negotiations at this time.