Florida Appeals Federal Judge Ruling on Seminole Blackjack Exclusivity

The State of Florida appealed on Thursday a court ruling made by a US District Judge last November that allowed the Seminole Tribe to keep blackjack at its casinos until 2030. The appeal filing has come as the latest development in a prolonged legal battle between the Seminoles and the state.

The conflict stemmed from a gambling compact tribal and state officials put their signatures on back in 2010. Under the agreement, the Seminoles became the sole providers of blackjack in the state. They were to run blackjack operations until the summer of 2015.

However, the tribe refused to stop offering the popular table game after the validity of the agreement expired. Seminole officials argued back in 2015 that the state had violated the terms of the 2010 deal by allowing pari-mutuels to offer games that were very similar to what was featured at Seminole casinos over the five-year period.

Seminoles and the state have countersued each other in an attempt to solve the issue. Last year, the two parties finally reached a new agreement, under which the tribe would have been allowed to offer exclusively blackjack at their casinos in exchange for $3 billion in tax contributions to Florida’s coffers for the first seven years of the exclusivity period. However, the deal could not pass the state Legislature.

In November, US District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a ruling that favored the tribe in its legal battle against Florida. According to Judge Hinkle, state officials had indeed violated the original compact by greenlighting the provision of card games at pari-mutuels, games that, as mentioned above, strongly resembled ones that were supposed to be exclusively featured at Seminole casinos. Under the November ruling, the tribe was allowed to operate blackjack tables until 2030.

The state did not provide media with more details on the grounds for its appeal. A Seminole spokesperson commented that the latest development in the case had not come as a surprise to them.

The announcement about the state’s appeal filing comes at a time when lawmakers are preparing to review a 112-page omnibus gambling bill that, among other things, suggests a solution to the conflict with the tribe. Sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, SB 8 would deprive the Seminoles from their blackjack exclusivity, but would give them the right to operate other tables games, including roulette and craps.

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