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.

Online Blackjack for Florida

Now that blackjack tables have been straightened out between the state and the Seminoles, the state of Florida is now turning its attention to online gambling and the possibility of regulating it. This would mean that online blackjack would be available to those in Florida.

There are two aspects of this online gambling regulation that fit together. One, there are one million residents in Florida who gambling online be they online blackjack players or online poker players or a fan of some other online casino game.

Two, despite the Seminole compact and the $1 billion in revenue it will generate, Florida is still around $2 billion short of its budget after considering the compact revenue.

So what can Florida do with its one million residents who gamble online and its budget shortfall?

They can regulate online gambling, thus allowing revenue to be generated from the online gambling.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) allows for each individual state to choose whether or not to regulate online gambling within their borders. This compliments the enforcement of UIGEA by the financial institutions. See, US citizens are not banned from gambling online, but financial institutions are banned from knowingly processing transactions between citizens and online casinos.

But if a state were to regulate online gambling, residents of that state would be able to gamble online legally, and financial institutions would not be prohibited from processing those transactions going to online casinos licensed by the regulating state.

In short, if Florida were to regulate online gambling, those of you who are in Florida and play blackjack online would be able to do so. So you would get your online blackjack and Florida would get its revenue.

How much revenue? It is estimated that Florida could make $200 million in the first year and $100 million in subsequent years. While it will not entirely cover the budget shortfall, the revenue would certainly help Florida’s state funded programs.

The race is on between Florida, California and New Jersey to see who will be the first of the fifty to regulate online gambling, and make online blackjack available.

Blackjack and Online Gambling Could be Effected by Florida Elections

Yesterday Florida hosted their primary elections for the upcoming November general election. Up for grabs in the general election will be a seat in the Senate and the governor’s chair. And the winners of both could have a big impact on the future of blackjack in the state of Florida and on online gambling for the nation.

Naturally the Republican and Democrat split can be also put like this: anti-gambling and pro-gambling.

The Republican candidate for governor is Rick Scott, who is not in favor of expanding the casino offerings in Florida. This could mean that when the five year blackjack exclusivity in the Seminole compact expires, Scott might not allow for further negotiations, possibly pulling blackjack out from under the Seminoles. He could also pull back the extended hours and higher limit on poker that pari-mutuels now have.

On the other side is Alex Sink, the Democrat candidate. Overall, the Democrats have a more liberal view of gambling within Florida, seeing it as a source of income and an addition to the tourist industry, which has been down—it seems that Disney is monetarily out of reach for some families and that Harry Potter is not drawing as much tourism as expected.

And there is a third governor candidate—Charlie Crist is running in the Independent party. And after his battle with state lawmakers over the Seminole compact we all know what his stance on blackjack and casinos in that state is. Maybe next time he will be able to definitely send the money to Education.

Let’s not forget the Senate race. This comes down to Marco Rubio, Republican, and Kendrick Meek, Democrat. And this race could have an impact on the future of legalizing online gambling and regulating it.

Rubio is strongly against online gambling. However, Meek, being a Democrat could vote in favor of Rep. Barney Frank’s bill to repeal UIGEA and set up a structure of regulating online gambling in the U.S. If Frank has to table his bill until next year, the Florida Senate seat will have an impact on what is looking like a close race to approve Frank’s bill.

Those in favor of online gambling and Floridian blackjack players will be keeping an eye on the upcoming November Florida general election.

Florida Casino to Open $5 Blackjack Tables…Finally

For as long as there has been blackjack in the state of Florida, $5 blackjack tables have not been a common find. But then we are talking pre-legal, compact approved blackjack within the state. Now that there is a compact between the Seminole tribe and the state of Florida giving the Seminoles a five year exclusivity to blackjack, the layout of the blackjack landscape is changing. For the better.

This coming Friday, August 20th, the first twenty four hour, seven days per week $5 blackjack tables will open at the Seminole Casino Hollywood.

The Seminole Casino Hollywood is not a new casino. It has been around for the last thirty years. But this is the first big event for this casino in several years. And it is all thanks to the exclusivity on blackjack that the Seminoles now enjoy, which went into effect this past July.

The opening of the new twenty four hour, seven days per week $5 blackjack tables will begin with speeches made by Seminole Gaming CEO, Jim Allen. There will also be speeches made by Seminole leaders. Once the speeches are done with, Seminole Casino Hollywood General Manager Adrian Fox will then say the magic words to get the gambling underway: “Guests place your bets.”

And speaking of guests there are several notable VIPs of the eighty four that will be present to break in the new blackjack tables this coming Friday. Among them is former NFL star Zach Thomas, Jimmie Walker and Alfonso Ribeiro, as well as other local media personalities. And naturally Seminole Tribal Council members will also be at the tables to play the first hand at these twelve new $5 blackjack tables.

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.

Seminole Compact Takes Effect

It is July 1st and that means one thing for the Seminole Tribe. Well, okay, it means two things but as a blackjack player I am really only concerned about one of those things.

The Seminole compact that took a Tolkien amount of time to be agreed upon is now in effect. This means that blackjack tables are now legal in five of the seven Seminole casinos. Of those five brick and mortar casinos, three are located in Broward County, one in Immokalee and the fifth casino can be found in Tampa.

The debate on whether the Seminoles would be allowed to have blackjack tables had been an ongoing since 2007 when Governor Charlie Crist signed a compact with them that would allow them blackjack at all seven of their casinos. State legislature quickly said that was not legal.

Ever since the blackjack tables were alternately called legal and illegal. This past May the Seminoles, Crist and state legislatures finally came to an agreement: the Seminoles would be allowed exclusivity on blackjack with five casinos being allowed the tables. The Seminoles will also have a twenty year exclusivity on Vegas style slot machines. In exchange the Seminoles will be playing $1.5 million over five years.

Now if the deal is broken by pari-mutuels being allowed blackjack in less than five years or Vegas style slot machines in less than twenty years, the respective portion of the Seminoles’ payment to the state will cease.

Naturally the pari-mutuels were not pleased. As a result they will have higher limit poker tables, later hours of operation and some breaks when it comes to the taxes they are paying to the state.

This is definitely a good day in terms of casino news. So Florida blackjack players go celebrate the Seminoles’ success by playing a few rounds at one of the five casinos. Not a Floridian? Pack your bags, visit Disney and then hope over to Tampa and enjoy the blackjack!

Will New Jersey have Online Blackjack?

Even if the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) now in effect California and Florida have been looking into making online gambling legal within their states for state residents. They are looking into it mostly as another source of income, which is much needed.

But while California has been going round and round in talks with tribes in their state, and Florida has been going back and forth with the Seminoles, New Jersey has snuck in under the radar.

On Thursday a bill, proposed by Senator Ray Lesniak, that would regulate online gambling within the state for New Jersey residents passed a committee vote 3-1. With the bill passed it can now go to the entire Senate for discussion and hopefully a vote that will allow for online gambling in New Jersey.

The way the bill works is to allow licensed casinos the ability to create sites online that allow for gambling online. Casinos must be licensed because without that license, according to federal law, they would not be allowed to offer online gambling. But since casinos in Atlantic City are licensed…well, you see where I am going with this.

Should this bill be passed into law, New Jersey would be the first state in the U.S. to have regulated online gambling. It is estimated that this could bring in $45 to $55 million in revenue. It could also give new life to the casinos in Atlantic City who have been struggling along the last couple of years. These casinos could be looking at around $250 million in new revenue by having regulated online gambling from their casinos.

As for the residents of New Jersey, they would be the first U.S. citizens to legally be allowed to gamble online. This means that online blackjack could very well be a reality for fans of blackjack in New Jersey.

Seminole Compact Done and Signed

Happy Cinco de Mayo for blackjack in Florida!

Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed the state’s compact with the Seminole tribe, bringing the compact into law. The compact was signed by the House of Representatives and the Florida Senate within the last couple of weeks. Getting those two bodies to sign a compact was the hard part. Once they had signed it many considered the compact done because Crist was already in favor of the Seminoles. But as of this morning it’s now official.

It’s taken the better part of the last few years, since 2007 in fact, to get the Seminoles and Florida’s legislature to agree on the compact terms. And it was to the benefit of the state to work something out as it would have not been good to be on bad terms with a sovereign nation within their own state lines.

With this compact the Seminoles, who originally were aiming at exclusive blackjack in all seven of their casinos, will have their sought-after exclusivity on blackjack, but will only be allowed to have blackjack in only five of their casinos: three in Broward County, one in Immokalee and one in Tampa. The exclusivity will last for five years, at which point the Seminoles and the legislature will go head-to-head again to determine the exclusivity of blackjack in Florida…again.

Also with this compact the Seminoles will have a twenty year exclusivity on Vegas style slots games.

So what is the cost for all this exclusivity? The Seminoles will be paying the state of Florida $1.5 billion over five years. Each yearly payment will cover the blackjack and the Vegas style slots. But if the state allows pari-mutuels or any other group blackjack in less than five years, or Vegas style slots in less than twenty years, the respective portion of the Seminoles’ payment will cease while they continue to pay for the exclusivity on the other.

Originally the money from the Seminoles was to be allotted for education, but the legislature wouldn’t agree to that. They wanted the money to go into Florida’s general fund. While Crist was sad to see the money go elsewhere, as are the parents of the state’s children, an agreement needed to be reached. Florida needs the money too badly.

So it’s in Florida’s interest to let the Seminoles do their thing for the next five years and twenty years. Crist was a happy man indeed to have succeeded in helping to work out an agreement between the legislature and the Seminoles.

Blackjack for Community College

If you love blackjack there just might be a program at community colleges that would be right up your alley.

Remember earlier this year when Pennsylvania approved their casinos to have table games like blackjack? With all those new tables and casino patrons wanting to sit down to play some blackjack, those casinos are in need of something: blackjack dealers.

Northampton Community College purchased the blackjack dealer training course from a community college in southern New Jersey. This way Northampton could offer the course to those who were interested in becoming blackjack dealers.

Imagine going to school and only studying blackjack.

The training is necessary if those who are interested in becoming dealers really want to be blackjack dealers. By the end of the course dealers in training have studied the game of blackjack, all the rules that apply to it, card and chip handling and CPR. Yes, CPR too.

But becoming a blackjack isn’t as simple as taking a course. Students will be tested with written and performance tests. Their potential employer, which is the Mount Airy casino, will also be judging them on their overall performance as students. Mount Airy wants to see what their work ethics, dedication and motivation are like. Judging their overall performance in the class also allows the casino to see how well they interact with people.

Mount Airy is looking to hire these blackjack students right away, at least those that pass their written and performance tests. But for those students who they feel don’t quite measure up, they won’t be hired right away and will be encouraged to practice more in hopes that they can hire those students at a later date.

And finally before they can be hired all blackjack students need to pass license requirements in order to be declared blackjack dealers.

It sounds like a lot but if you have that much love of the game it’s well worth the effort. When Pennsylvania was debating on whether to make blackjack tables legal or not, one of the pro points was that it would create jobs. Of the eighty seven who took the blackjack course, it is believed that they will all pass and that Mount Airy is interested in hiring them…or at least those who need no further training. It’s good to see the actual jobs being created and to see the community benefiting from legalizing blackjack tables.

Hey, Florida, those of you who are opposed to the Seminole blackjack tables, take note—that community in Pennsylvania is benefiting from blackjack through job creation. The same could happen for Florida.

Florida House Signs Off on Seminole Compact

It looks like this compact with the Seminoles is going to happen. With a 74-39 vote, the compact passed through the House on Monday. The Florida Senate has already approved the compact with a 29-9 vote. Now all that’s left is for Governor Charlie Crist to sign off and then it’s off to the federal Department of Interior, who oversees all state-tribal gambling compacts in the U.S.

And the good news is that Crist has already said that he will sign the compact despite the fact that the Seminole’s payments will no longer go to education—something that Crist was strongly in favor of. To make the Legislature happy the money is now going into the state’s general revenue fund. This is disappointing because the education of Florida’s children should have come first.

In the next fiscal year this compact will put $435 million into the state’s budget, which is much in need of the money.

The compact will allow the Seminoles to have blackjack in their casinos. Originally the tribe wanted blackjack in all seven of their casinos, but they compromised with the deal that blackjack would be allowed at five of their casinos. The Seminoles will also have the full market on Vegas-style slot machines, except in Broward and Miami-Dade counties because voters in those counties had already approved those games.

But not everyone is happy to see the Seminoles get their blackjack.

The pari-mutuels are one such group. They feel that with the Seminoles having the only blackjack tables and the almost monopoly on the Vegas-style slots will leave the tracks unable to compete. However, the compact allows pari-mutuels to extended hours and offer higher poker limits.

Other opponents include the religious conservatives who worry about the morals of the citizens of Florida. Rep. Charles Van Zant is quoted saying that the compact “is evil and brings evil upon Floridians” and that “it damages our faith, our families and our freedoms.”

But what he is failing to see is that the allowance of blackjack and the Vegas-style slots will provide a boost to gambling tourism—and this is a state that doesn’t have a state income tax because of its tourism.

Florida also has extensive gambling offerings, proving that residents are okay with gambling. Florida is home to eight Indian casinos, a state Lottery with 13,000 retailers, gambling cruises and twenty seven pari-mutuels.

With all the gambling that is done in Florida it is about time that some of that money be returned to the state to support it, even if it isn’t going into education. The pari-mutuels and religious conservatives had better get prepared because it looks like blackjack is going to be legal in Florida.