The Seminole Tribe has informed the state of Florida that it will no longer make its $350-million annual casino payments. The decision takes immediate effect.
Yesterday, the Indian tribal nation handed a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, revealing that it will stop making its due payments to the state of Florida, while a settlement on their long-year legal dispute over multiplayer games is reached. Marcellus Osceola Jr., who serves as a Chairman of the Tribal Council, wrote that the Seminoles would follow their agreement with the State and stop making any payments as part of its revenue-sharing agreement until the illegal banked card game issue is finally resolved.
A spokesperson for the President of the Senate Bill Galvano, who has been involved in gambling agreements with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for his legislative career so far, explained that the announcement has not been surprising to the Senate and is not expected to have an impact on the recently passed budget, as the latter did not include any appropriations for the tribe payments this year.
Mr. Galvano’s spokeswoman also explained that the issue is set to be reviewed in the summer, with the Senate being ready to assist as needed.
Existing Contract Guaranteed $350-Million Payments by the Seminoles Every Year
Under the terms of the existing contract between the Seminole Tribe and the State, which was inked under the former Governor Rick Scott, the Native American tribe has paid an amount of approximately $350 million on an annual basis to Florida. This agreement, however, is set to expire at the end of May 2019.
Towards the end of this year’s legislative session, some discussions regarding possible permission for the tribe to offer sports betting services were held, as part of local lawmakers’ efforts to boost state revenue. However, no deal was reached before the end of the legislative session. Florida legislators had hoped to ink a 31-year compact with the tribe, under which betting at racetracks and jai-alai courts would be possible. Unfortunately, the specifics of the deal were brought on the negotiations table too late and there was not enough time for the parties to iron out the details.
On the other hand, the decision of the Seminole Tribe of Florida to stop making its due payments to the state would be a potential $350-million loss of revenue every year should the state fail to stop parimutuels from offering card games. According to the tribe, such an offering violates its exclusive right to offer so-called “banked” card games, or in other words, games in which players bet against the house.
As mentioned above, the tax revenue provided by the Tribe was not included in the $91.1-billion state budget due to the situation with the volatile negotiations. A year ago, the Seminoles inked an agreement with then-Governor Rick Scott to guarantee they will continue making their monthly payments to Florida state by the end of the ongoing legislative session.