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US – Seminole fighting back over right to deal blackjack

By - 29 July 2015

The Seminole Tribe of Florida could be about to lose its blackjack tables at its Florida casinos including the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee, and five other casinos.

The deal with state officials is due to expire this week with the gaming regulator asking for a timeline for closing down the blackjack tables.

Ken Lawson, the secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, revealed that the current agreement will force the tribe to shut down its blackjack tables within 90 days if legislators do not renew the deal. A proposal to extend the games for one year failed to pass the Florida Legislature.

Mr. Lawson said that the tribe and the state ‘continue to enjoy an unprecedented amount of cooperation.’

Tribal Council Chairman James Billie believes however that the casinos can keep offering black jack games because Florida legislators violated the gambling compact by permitting South Florida race tracks to offer versions of electronic blackjack.

He said: “By allowing casinos in South Florida to offer electronic blackjack electronic table games which is essentially a violation of the contract.”

The Seminoles and Florida struck a deal back in 2010 to allow the tribe exclusive rights to operate blackjack and other card games at three Broward County casinos as well as at casinos in Immokalee and Tampa.

Tribal spokesman Gary Bitner revealed that blackjack generates around 20 per cent of the tribe’s GGR, equating to around $1bn a year at the Tampa location.

In return for blackjack exclusivity, the tribe has paid the state $1bn over a five year period. Analysts believe the stand-off will lead to a court battle between the state and the tribe.

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