Seminoles Hint Revenue Share Payments Are Jeopardized By Sands Casino Push

Written By Brant James on February 8, 2022 - Last Updated on February 9, 2022
Wooden Gavel To Represent Push and Pull Between Seminole Tribe And Sands

The Seminole Tribe of Florida’s attempt to maintain its virtual monopoly on gambling in the state led to a legal motion, and a reminder for lawmakers last week.

The Tribe had a motion to intervene accepted by a judge after Las Vegas Sands Corp sued in Leon County to extend the deadline for signature collection regarding a possible expansion of gambling in north Florida.

The proposed constitutional amendment backed by Sands’ Florida Voters in Charge PAC would allow, among other things, for a new casino near Jacksonville. The group did not attain the nearly 900,000 signatures needed by the Feb. 1 deadline in what became a contentious tussle, including an allegation of election fraud.

In its motion to intervene, the Tribe claims the Sands measure,

“Would be an infringement on the Tribe’s right to exclusivity under the Compact and threatens to disrupt a contractual relationship between the Tribe and the State. That has been highly beneficial to both parties.”

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper accepted the Seminoles and Standing Up For Florida as interveners.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida currently operates six casinos in Florida, two under the Hard Rock brand it owns.


RELATED: SEMINOLE TRIBE IS USED TO WINNING IN FLORIDA


Legal maneuvering latest in complicated Florida gambling gambit

When the Tribe’s 2021 compact – which would have allowed it to newly offer sports betting, craps and roulette – was voided by a federal court judge, its 2010 deal with the state reverted back into law. That agreement allows the Seminoles alone “with narrow exceptions not relevant to this matter” to offer slot machines and similar games, according to the intervening document.

Disputes over past state breaches of the Seminoles exclusivity – notably certain parimutuel outlets being allowed to offer banked card games – led to multiple stoppages in the $350 million-yearly revenue payments the Tribe had paid to the state.

The Seminoles had not made payments since the middle of 2018 but resumed when the new compact was signed. The 2021 compact upped the state’s yearly haul to $500-million. Seminole Tribe spokesperson Gary Bitner told Florida Politics that those payments had been made as recently as last month, even after the 2021 compact was voided by a federal judge.

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Brant James

Brant James is a veteran journalist who has twice been recognized in the Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, most recently in 2020. He's covered motorsports, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball among a myriad of others beats and written enterprise and sports business for publications including USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com.

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