More Blackjack for Pennsylvania

On Thursday of last week three brick and mortar casinos in western Pennsylvania opened the blackjack tables, drawing patrons away from the long haul drive to Atlantic City to enjoy some blackjack.

Unfortunately for Atlantic City the run of Pennsylvania casinos is not at an end yet. This past Tuesday, July 13th, saw the opening of blackjack tables in three eastern Pennsylvania casinos.

Blackjack players all over Pennsylvania are very excited with the addition of their favorite casino game in six casinos. This follows months of back and forth political arguments earlier this year about whether or not the State would allow table games like blackjack, roulette and craps to be added to their game offerings. But the demand was there and the income to the State in gaming taxes was needed. Everyone wins. Well, except for Atlantic City.

For decades Atlantic City was the mecca of East Coast gambling in the United States. But with the down turn in the economy and a lack of funds trickling down the government hill, states began looking at other ways to bring in money.

Pennsylvania is not the only state to look to gambling. Florida recently settled a long standing dispute with the Seminole tribe about blackjack there. Florida will be making $1.5 billion over the next five years from their deal with the Seminoles.

But with the addition of blackjack to the casino games at the Rivers, Meadows and Presque Isle Downs casinos in western Pennsylvania and the Mohegan Sun, Mount Airy and Hollywood casinos in eastern Pennsylvania could spell even more trouble for Atlantic City.

Not only will the time-honored East Coast gambling destination be competing with these six improved casinos next door, they might also be competing against online gambling. New Jersey is looking at legalizing online gambling for New Jersey residents that would make the competition even greater for Atlantic City.

While Pennsylvania blackjack players are quite happy with the new table games in six of their casinos, we shall have to see how Atlantic City fares over the next few years. Will it be able to keep itself afloat or will it sink in the ocean that is the gambling industry.

Seminoles and Florida Take a Step Forward

The Florida Legislature and the Seminole Tribe have taken a step forward in reaching an agreement in regards to the Seminoles’ blackjack tables and slot machines. The deal isn’t finalized yet, it still has to pass the House, the Senate and the tribal council. But considering it was the tribe and the Legislature that have been butting heads from the beginning (the deals signed in 2007 and 2009 between the Seminoles and Governor Crist were rejected by the Legislature), the fact that they have a signed agreement is very encouraging.

In this signed deal the Seminoles would be paying Florida $1.5 billion over five years. This will give them exclusive operation rights for blackjack in their Hollywood, Immokalee and Tampa casinos; there is also the option to add blackjack to the Seminole casino in Coconut Creek. It also gives them exclusivity over Vegas-style slot machines for twenty years.

The $1.5billion would be paid out in the following way:

$150 million for years one and two
$233 million for years three and four
$234 million for year five

But to balance out the benefits the Seminoles are getting for their blackjack and slots exclusivity, pari-mutuels would be allowed higher limits at their poker tables and extended hours. But pari-mutuels would also receive 350 video bingo machines and historic race machines—but those machines cannot operate like slot machines. If they do operate as such then the pari-mutuels would be stepping on the Seminoles’ toes.

At the end of five years the Legislature can allow the pari-mutuels to offer blackjack, but the Seminoles’ payment to the State would be lowered so that they are only paying for their exclusivity for slot machines. And if the Legislature allows for pari-mutuels to allow video lottery terminals outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties then the Seminole payments would cease.

Now my reasoning on this is that the Legislature is looking to make the most money for Florida. In light of that it would be wise in five years for the Legislature to make another deal with the Seminoles to keep their exclusivity for blackjack. The Seminole casinos will at that point be known as the place to go in Florida for blackjack; they can draw in the players which allows them to continue to make high payments to the State, which Florida needs.

Although we all know that the pari-mutuels will want more and more. But the thing to keep in mind is that the casinos are the Seminoles’ primary source of income for their tribe. Cutting of their exclusivity will hurt their relationship with Florida, and they could turn the Federal government to maintain their place in Florida.

But I have a funny feeling that in five years we’ll see another five years will see another long drawn out set of negotiations because the pari-mutuels will want more.

Seminoles Making a Deal?

It looks like the state of Florida and the Seminoles just might be reaching a deal that everyone can live with. Maybe.

This deal comes down to compromise.

From the looks of it the Seminoles would get to keep their exclusivity to blackjack and Vegas-style slots. But the pari-mutuels would get extended hours of operation, increased buy-ins at their poker tables and bingo style betting machines; there’s also the possibility that in the future pari-mutuels might get video lottery terminals as well.

Hopefully this would make everyone happy since the Seminoles would be getting their exclusivity. Having exclusivity is important to the Seminoles because the profits from their casinos are a very large chunk of the tribe’s livelihood.

The only hand up seems to be the video lottery terminals. The Seminoles want exclusive rights to those as well. But the pari-mutuels want them so that they have the feeling that they could compete with the Seminoles in terms of drawing a gambling crowd.

But a deal is going to have to be reached. The pari-mutuels are getting restless and the Seminoles are getting more and more irritated—both mostly from the three years it’s taken to even come close to a deal. And the state of Florida needs the income.

If this deal is agreed upon by the state and the Seminoles, it would put $450 million into the state’s budget. The money comes from licensing fees mostly. But Florida needs that money. Especially since the Seminoles’ contribution is allotted for education—and the money is badly needed for the state’s education programs and teachers’ salaries.

At this point we need to sit back, cross our fingers and hope that exclusivity to blackjack and slots is going to be enough for the Seminoles to agree.