State Sen. Rob Bradley, who leads a legislative panel that oversees gambling in Florida, on Wednesday said there’s a “better than 50 percent” chance the Seminole Tribe of Florida and state officials will agree on a new deal for the tribe to continue offering blackjack.
Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who chairs the Regulated Industries committee, briefly spoke to a FloridaPolitics.com reporter after a medical marijuana press conference. He has been involved in talks with the Tribe.
“We’re closer now than we were two weeks ago, and we were closer then than the month before,” he said.
Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the Tribe, did not comment in detail, saying only negotiations were continuing. Both sides have been in mediation.
But time is wasting to renew an agreement allowing the tribe to keep card games at its seven casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.
The blackjack provision in a larger document known as the Seminole Compact sets up a showdown at the beginning of November, when permission to deal cards expires, absent a renewal.
At that point, the state can go to federal court and ask a judge to enforce the agreement, meaning ordering the Seminoles to take down the card tables.
At the same time, the Tribe’s lawyers previously made clear they had no intent to discontinue blackjack, deal or no deal.
Card games generate less than 20 percent of the Seminoles’ gambling revenue, which totals up to $1 billion yearly at the Tampa casino, records show.
In return for exclusive rights to blackjack, the tribe had to guarantee to pay a $1 billion minimum into the state treasury over five years, starting in 2010-11.
Earlier this year, its attorneys had said the state broke its promise of exclusivity by allowing electronic blackjack and player-banked poker elsewhere in the state, including in South Florida.
Because of that, the Tribe can keep offering blackjack and any other card game until the year 2030, they said – and the Tribe doesn’t have to pay the state a dime.