Seminole Tribe Officials Voice Discontent with Florida Gambling Bills

Although there are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature, both of them offering the Seminole Tribe what is considered to be certain benefits, tribal officials do not seem to be very happy with the opportunities they have been presented with.

A letter by Marcellus Osceola, Chairman of the Seminole Tribal Council, was sent to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Senate President Joe Negron to inform the state Legislature about the tribe’s stance on the matter. According to tribal officials, both bills may be violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, as they call for the Seminoles to increase their contributions to the state. At the same time, they limit the tribe’s operations in one way or another.

Under the Senate bill, the Seminole tribe will lose its exclusivity over the provision of blackjack, but will be allowed to offer roulette and craps at its casinos. Under the House bill, its properties will remain the sole blackjack providers, but will not be allowed to offer other table games. However, under both proposals, the tribe will have to pay $3 billion to the state during the first seven years of its compact with the state.

The Seminole issue has remained unsolved since the summer of 2015, when its blackjack exclusivity under a previous compact with Florida was set to expire. However, the tribe kept its tables, arguing that the state had violated the agreement by allowing non-Seminole properties to offer player-designated table games.

Under the above-mentioned Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, payments made by tribal casinos to state governments should be part of deals that also benefit tribes. According to the Seminole Tribe the two deals proposed by the Florida Senate and House were violating the Act because they raised payments without offering enough benefits.

Mr. Osceola also backed the tribe’s arguments with a letter sent to it by Office of Indian Gaming Director Paula Hart, which read that the office would hardly approve a deal that would increase revenue sharing but would reduce the tribe’s gambling exclusivity. The letter was sent in relation to a previous proposal for an agreement between the Seminoles and Florida. Said proposal would have, too, raised the tribe’s payment obligations, if it had not died in the Legislature last year.

Despite the apparent discontent with the two gambling bills, Mr. Osceola wrote in his letter to the state’s highest ranking officials that the Seminoles are ready to discuss a deal that would be equally beneficial to all involved parties.

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