The federally recognized Seminole Tribe of Florida has won the right to keep offering blackjack at its Florida casinos.
After a five-year exclusivity clause in the 2010 compact between the Seminole Tribe and the Sunshine state expired last summer, state officials wanted the tribe to stop offering the card game at its casinos. However, on Wednesday U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that the tribe can keep its blackjack tables for 14 more years, according to the Associated Press. Hinkle ruled in favor of the tribe because state regulators permitted pari-mutuels throughout the state to run designated-player games that mimicked the tribe’s offering. According to the report, the ruling by the court could lead to a new deal being negotiated between the state and the tribe.
The suit that was filed by the Seminole tribe was based on the original agreement between the tribe and former Governor Charlie Crist. In addition to giving tribal casinos exclusivity over banked card games such as blackjack, it also stipulated that when the compact expired, the Seminole would have a 90-day grace period to continue to offer the games. That compact expired on July 31, 2015, which prompted the federal Northern District of Florida suit which accused the state of not conducting “good faith” dialogue regarding a renegotiated deal as per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Less than a week after the Seminole’s filing, the state countered with a suit of its own asking a judge in Tampa’s federal Middle District to stop the games. According to the tribe at the time, even without the compact, it was within its rights to continue to offer the games because the state violated the tribe’s exclusivity rights by allowing pari-mutuels throughout Florida to offer electronic versions of the games.
Directly impacted by the litigation are five of the tribe’s seven casinos including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood; the former being one of the world’s most lucrative casinos.
Meanwhile, card rooms at Florida parimutuels are being warned by state regulators to change the way their card games are currently being played as they are too similar to the house banked games found in casinos such as those operated by the Seminole tribe.