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Seminole Tribe Halts Casino Revenue Sharing Payments To State Of Florida

Dispute Over 'Designated-Player' Games Led To Decision To Stop Making Payments To Government, Which Totaled $350 Million Annually


The Seminole Tribe of Florida hand-delivered a letter to Gov. Rick DeSantis on Tuesday stating that they would no longer be making revenue-sharing payments to the state.

Under the current agreement, those payments total $350 million annually, but it is set to expire at the end of the month. The tribe wants to clear up some disagreements with the state before entering a new compact and resuming payments to the government.

In the letter, Tribal Council Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. noted that the tribe will not pay the state another dime “until the illegal banked card game issue is resolved.”

Pari-mutuel cardrooms, often operated in Florida as ‘racinos,’ have been permitted to offer ‘designated-player’ games at their facilities. Games such as Three Card Poker and War have been offered in some of theses cardrooms over the last few years.

The Seminoles believe that the current agreement gives them exclusivity over these player-banked games. By allowing other facilities to spread the games, the tribe feels the state has failed to honor the agreement and enforce their exclusivity rights.

Legislators were working to reach a new deal with the tribe, but were unable to reach an agreement before the legislative session expired. According to the Tampa Bay Times, lawmakers were mulling the idea of a compromise giving the Seminoles the rights to sports betting while simultaneously creating a new 31-year compact.

John Lockwood, an attorney for many of the pari-mutuel facilities, doesn’t understand why they would stop making payments when they have one of the best deals in the country.

“They are making billions of dollars a year,” Lockwood told the Tampa Bay Times. “They go to the Legislature to make the deal even better and when they don’t get their way, they decide to spit in the face of the executive branch. It’s a pretty bold move on their part. I’m not sure what their end game is.”

Their end game seems to be to force the government to shut down the designated player games at competing facilities, or to get an even better deal from the state that could include expanded gaming with options such as craps and roulette.

Without the payments, some legislators are worried about having to cut certain government programs, which certainly gives the tribe the upper hand in future negotiations.

The tribe operates all of the Seminole and Hard Rock Casinos in the sate, which will stay open for business while the officials figure out what the state’s next move.