The Seminole Tribe and Florida Enter Mediation over Blackjack Agreement

The Seminole Tribe and Florida Enter Mediation over Blackjack Agreement

Florida’s federally recognized Seminole Tribe and state officials are to head into mediation in order to avoid a potential deadlock in talks regarding the tribal casinos’ monopoly over blackjack and other table games.

Last month, tribal officials requested mediation after negotiations with state legislators stalled earlier this year. As it seems, Florida officials have agreed to renew talks on the matter and both parties have named a mediator.

Chelsea Eagle, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which supervises gambling operations within Florida’s borders, said in a Tuesday email that they have not responded formally to the arbitration request. Yet, she pointed out that department officials have been discussing the mediation location and dates with the involved parties.

Emails between state officials reveal that the Seminoles together with members of Gov. Rick Scott’s office had initially selected Thomas Brewer as their mediator. However, scheduling conflicts forced the lawyer to decline to serve. Eventually, the involved parties agreed on New York-based lawyer Loretta Gastwirth. She is a partner in the Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein, and Breitstone law firm and her list of former clients include Luther Vandross and Mick Jagger.

Back in 2010, the Seminole tribe reached an agreement with the state to become the sole provider of blackjack and other card games. Those are offered at 5 of its 7 casinos across Florida. In return, the Seminoles were to pay no less than $1 billion over a five-year period. However, the five-year agreement, part of a twenty-year compact between the state and the tribe, expired on July 31.

The Seminole casinos have 90 more days to provide the said card games. However, tribal officials have previously pointed out that they will not need to stop offering blackjack and te other table games even after that.

Yet, both parties hope that a new compact will be finalized before the 90-day deadline and it seems that negotiations between the Seminoles and key legislators are moving forward.

Any deal of this kind should first be authorized by the Florida Legislature. However, Gov. Scott can sign the agreement, if one is reached, before the end of the 90-day period and legislators can ratify it a bit later. Then, the compact should be approved by the Department of the Interior, as it oversees gambling operations on tribal land.