Seminole Tribe heads to court over blackjack rights

A federal court will decide if the tribe can continue to legally run blackjack games in their casinos.

US.- The tribe filed a lawsuit after sections of a gambling deal with Florida state expired in 2015, and the trial is the latest measure to solve the dispute. The trial could determine if the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which earns more than US$2 billion a year, will be able to keep blackjack tables at its casinos.

The case goes back to 2010, when the tribe signed a five-year agreement with the state to operate banked card games at five of the tribe’s seven casinos. Even though the agreement expired last summer, the Seminole Tribe has continued to offer the games. The case is centered on two types of games: card games and slot machines that simulate blackjack, which are currently authorised by state gambling regulators at pari-mutuel facilities.

The Tribe is accusing the state of failing to negotiate in “good faith” on a new agreement. Barry Richard, the tribe’s lawyer, said: “The seminal issue in this case is exclusivity. The governor and Legislature said to us that they will not negotiate a renewal unless we renegotiate the entire compact and give them a whole lot more money.”

The battle is set to continue in federal court. So far, Florida taxpayers have paid more than US$260,000 to private lawyers to represent the state in the dispute.