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US – Seminole’s facing uncertain future as Florida Legislature rejects casino deal

By - 9 March 2016

The future of gambling in Florida could now be decided in the courts following a decision by Florida’s lawmakers to kick a proposed $3bn casino deal, agreed by Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, into touch.

The deal, that would have given Florida $3bn over seven years starting in 2017 in return for letting the tribe add craps and roulette to its existing casinos, died when legislators said they had no plans to consider it. The tribe had also promised a $1.8bn expansion at its Seminole Hardrock Casino Hollywood which would have included a huge, guitar-shaped hotel and would have created 19,452 jobs. Proponents of the legislation said they would now discard any renewed efforts to pass the bill.

Staying silent since on the decision so far, Seminole Gaming CEO James Allen had previously said the tribe needed the compact to move forward.

The deal was seen by some as a comprise following a serious of fallouts culminating in federal lawsuits being filed by both the Seminoles and the state of Florida following the expiry of a 2010 deal allowing blackjack tables to be operated by the tribe. The first lawsuit was lodged in October by the tribe against the state after the expiration of the previous deal. That lawsuit, set for trial in July in Tallahassee, would decide whether the Seminoles can indeed continue to operate blackjack tables. The Florida legislature is believed to have been angered by the tribe’s decision to continue offering blackjack in the interim.

There was also a concern that with the current Legislative Session finishing on March 11, there wasn’t enough time to get the bill through, especially with so many factions demanding changes to it.
Republican Jose Felix Diaz said of the failed bill described the gaming bills as being on ‘life support.’ He added that it had needed a ‘miracle’ to be approved and that they now ‘had no option but to pull the plug.’

Some observers believe that the legislature’s refusal to reach an agreement with the tribe is a huge gamble that could backfire in the Florida Supreme Court.

Republican Matt Gaetz believes the state will lose any future court battle with the tribe. He believes the state’s lawmaker’s could now have given up the its ‘involvement in this critical decision making process.’

However the legislature believes it has the upper hand as with no agreement reached, the Seminole Tribe is continuing to illegally offer blackjack at its seven casinos.

Governor Rick Scott said: “My responsibility was to work to get a Compact done. My team put together a very good Compact for the citizens of our state. It’s up to the Legislature to make their decision on what they want to do. According to the Seminoles, 3,700 people are going to lose their jobs.”

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