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Seminole Tribe settles blackjack dispute with Florida

The

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Seminole Tribe of Florida have confirmed the settlement of a two-year legal dispute with the state of Florida over the provision of blackjack tables within the state’s borders.

Under a 2010 gambling compact agreement with the state, the tribe were granted exclusivity over blackjack gaming tables in the state for a five-year period in exchange for $1bn in payments to the state.

However, the tribe continued to offer blackjack at its casinos even after the five year period expired, filing a lawsuit which claimed that Florida had violated its side of the agreement by allowing pari-mutuels in the state to offer table games which were previously designated to the tribe only.

Last November, US District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in favour of the tribe stating that state gambling regulators had indeed breached the compact by allowing others to offer these games.

In his decision, Hinkle ruled the tribe could keep their existing blackjack tables in place for another 14 years. State officials later appealed that ruling, but the two sides have now asked that the appeal be dismissed.

The regular session of the Florida legislature ended in May without any deal, despite positive efforts from both sides to end the dispute.

As part of the agreement Florida will “take aggressive enforcement” approach against the provision of such games in non-tribal casinos and other gambling facilities. It will also be required to withdraw a 2017 countersuit which claimed that it had not violated the 2010 compact.

The new settlement will enable the tribe to continue to offer card games at its casinos until 2030 in exchange for regular monthly payments to the state. Tribal officials will pay the state of Florida $220m immediately, with another $120m due for collection within the next year.

In an interview following the announcement of the settlement Barry Richard, an attorney representing the Seminole Tribe told The Miami Herald: "There's no loser to this.

"It gives the tribe finality and the security of knowing the games will continue. The state will continue to get a few hundred million."

Despite the optimism of tribal officials, the unfortunate losers in this settlement will be the state's pari-mutuel operators, who were previously free to offer card games at horse and dog tracks but are now facing the prospect of heavy fines and enforcement actions should they continue their efforts. A second lawsuit from the disadvantaged parties challenging this settlement seems to be the likely result.


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