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Florida Casino Law and the Seminole Tribe

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has been dealing with the law for many years – approximately two decades – in order to offer casino and Las Vegas-style slot machines at its casinos. Governor Jeb Bush signed a bill last week that will allow the Seminole Tribe to bring and offer higher-stakes games in their casino locations. However, things aren’t as simple as they seem: the tribe must first form an agreement, or compact, with the governor, who happens to be fiercely determined to limit gambling. After that is accomplished, the Seminoles must then get the compact approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

‘The governor’s announcement that he is committed to achieving a quick and fair agreement offers new hope that a compact can be achieved,’’ Gary Bitner, spokesman for the Seminole Tribe. ‘’The tribe has been trying since 1991 to negotiate a compact with the state of Florida without success. There is no question that the tribe has a right to offer slot machines and card games, since those games are now expressly permitted under Florida law.’ Before 1988, federal courts allowed tribes to operate casinos and gaming on their reservations free of state regulation. This was true only if the state’s public policy was to regulate, rather than forbid, those games. In October, 1988, Congress enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allowing the states a role in regulating tribal operations and casinos of Class III games, as long as the state permitted Class III machines.

Governor Bush is in a difficult position, caught between personal feelings and state regulations. Tribal casinos exist all over the US, and the addition of high-stakes games to the thus far exclusive Class III games offered in these casinos will surely have a profound impact on the face of the various casino sites and casino gambling in the state of Florida. Only time will tell how this issue will be resolved, and what agreement will be formed between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe.

OCA News Editor

Jenny McKinnley is OCA’s financial correspondent. After spending years on the trading floor in both NY and London, she offers insight from the inside out on world financial news and events.