Judge sets trial date for Seminole lawsuit against Florida

judge-sets-trial-date-for-seminole-lawsuit-against-floridaThe odds of the Seminole Tribe keeping blackjack at its casinos get even better.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle scheduled a trial date for the Seminole Tribe’s lawsuit against the state of Florida in July. The two-week trial will determine whether or not the Seminoles can continue to have blackjack tables at their casinos.

Last week, Hinkle rejected Florida AG Pam Bondi’s bid to dismiss the Seminole’s case.

“The contention is plainly wrong,” Hinkle wrote in his five-page order. “Any reading of the act that would suggest a state has no duty to negotiate at that time would make no sense — it would mean that when a state’s first compact with a tribe ended, the state would be relieved of any obligation to negotiate a new or extended compact.”

The state and the tribe entered a five-year compact in 2010, which gave the tribe exclusive rights to operate popular card games at its casinos including Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Seminole Classic in Hollywood. In return, the tribe guaranteed the state $1 billion in tax revenue.

The compact expired last July 30, and without a new deal, the Seminoles were supposed to fold up the tables and put away the cards within 90 days of the compact’s expiration.

The tribe filed a lawsuit ahead of the Oct. 29 deadline accusing the state of acting in “bad faith” about negotiations on a new gambling deal and asking a judge to allow the tribe to keep offering the card games.

Gov. Rick Scott in December reached a new $3 billion deal with the tribe that would let them keep blackjack and add table games such as craps and roulette, but it needs approval from the Florida Legislature.

“The Compact will result in $3 billion in revenue to Florida over seven years, which is three times the guarantee of the prior Compact. Additionally, the Compact will not only save 3,500 jobs, but will also generate 15,000 new jobs,” according to a statement from The Florida Chamber of Commerce.

A survey commissioned by the chamber also indicated that more residents find that the agreement has been beneficial to the state and the Seminole tribe has followed the provisions of the agreement in good faith.

The senate committee is expected to discuss the compact next week but lawmakers have been skeptical that the proposal can get enough votes to pass on this year’s session.