Seminole Blackjack Under Threat

Here we go again down in Florida. The Seminoles have had their exclusivity to blackjack for less than a year, and already it is being threatened. Although this time the threat is not coming from the pari-mutuels backed with Florida lawmakers.

Not this time. In fact, the pari-mutuels are on the same side as the Seminoles this time.

The threat to the Seminole’s blackjack is coming from a proposed bill that would bring, not three like it was originally thought to be, but five destination resort casinos to Florida. And in order for them to be fully fledged casinos they would need the table game spectrum including blackjack and Vegas style slot machines. And the Seminoles have a five year exclusivity on blackjack and a twenty year exclusivity on the slot machines.

Destination resort casinos would most certainly undermine the Seminole compact; and if that were to happen, the tribe would not have to continue to pay the increments that would give Florida $1 billion over five years.

“If the legislature wants to allow in new entities, it will have to decide if it is a good tradeoff. Are they going to make enough to make up for the assured payments from the tribe,” said Seminole tribal spokesman Gary Bitner.

The bill, proposed by Senator Dennis Jones and Senator Maria Sachs, would have casino groups applying for gaming license and applying for state approval to be one of the five chosen. Like the money from the Seminoles, the refundable licensing fee and nonrefundable application fee would go mostly into the state’s general fund.

I do think that most of the state will not be in favor of bringing in five casinos. There is Florida’s reputation as a family vacation spot to be considered. Former state representative Dick Batchelor said, “You give up so much of the reputation you have built up, which I do not think can be replaced with the money make.”

Between the guaranteed money from the Seminoles as they pay for their blackjack and with Florida’s reputation to be considered, I do not think the bill will do through. However I have no doubt that Jones and Sachs will fight for its approval.