On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that the Seminole Tribe of Florida may keep its blackjack tables through 2030.
In his 36-page decision, Hinkle determined that the state violated the terms of the 20-year tribal-state gaming compact by allowing pari-mutuels throughout Florida to offer “designated-player games” — electronic versions of their house-banked games.
Hinkle’s ruling will allow the Seminoles to continue to offer banked games for the duration of their original 20-year compact. The initial agreement with former Governor Charlie Crist, inked in 2010, provided the tribe five years of exclusivity over house-banked card games like blackjack and baccarat. The state received $1.7 billion in revenue sharing from Seminole-owned casinos. After that compact expired on July 31, 2015, Gov. Rick Scott and the tribe agreed upon a new gaming compact, but it was rejected in the 2016 legislative session. In the interim, the tribe accused the state of not negotiating in “good faith” as mandated by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The state then filed a lawsuit demanding the tribe stop offering its house-banked games. But the Seminoles persisted on the grounds that the state violated the tribe’s exclusivity rights through the pari-mutuels.
“The Seminole Tribe is very pleased with Judge Hinkle's ruling and is carefully reviewing it. The Tribe believes the ruling provides for its future stability and ensures 3,600 Seminole gaming employees will keep their jobs,” tribal spokesman Gary Bitner said in a statement.
State regulators are also issuing warnings to card rooms throughout Florida to make changes so their electronic games, so that they don’t mimic the tribe’s house-banked games.
The Seminoel Tribe runs table games at five of its seven casinos.