Galvano and Seminoles return to negotiations
With federal officials inching closer, lawyers for the Seminole Tribe and the Florida House have resumed informal talks over a gambling compact.
Rep. Bill Galvano, the House's lead negotiator, has spoken with the Seminole Tribe's chief executive for its gaming operations, Jim Allen and tribe general counsel Jim Shore. House staff lawyer George Levesque has also spoken with tribe lawyer Barry Richard.
"There's a recognition from both parties that achieving this compact is a positive,'' Galvano told the Times/Herald on Wednesday. He said that the National Indian Gaming Commission's recent inquiries into whether the slot machines that operate like blackjack games entitle the tribe to operate the blackjack table games have helped spark some movement.
In January, the tribe filed a legal memo with the National Indian Gaming Commission, arguing that because video blackjack games are now running at Mardi Gras Casino and Gulfstream Park, the tribe's games are no different and are therefore clearly allowed by state law.
Officials for the NIGC inspected the machines at Mardi Gras -- a sign, Galvano said, that the agency is considering the Florida situation. He expects NIGC to make a decision soon but meanwhile believes the agency's presence "is light years away from where we were just a year ago,'' when the federal government appeared to show no interest in determining whether the tribe was operating the table games illegally after the Florida Supreme Court invalidated the compact it negotiated with Gov. Charlie Crist.
Federal law requires the tribe to operate Class III games such as slot machines only with a valid compact with the state.
Richard said both sides are trying to determine where either side stands since the House rejected the second attempt at a compact, which the tribe negotiated with Crist in August.
"Each side is exploring how much they are willing to move,'' he said. "Is the House willing to give the tribe exclusivity? Is the House willing to allow any of the banked card games? Is the tribe willing to additional regulatory oversight?''
Here are the documents on the back and forth between the Tribe and the House on the blackjack question: Download 2-12-10 Seminole Submission on Banked Card Games Download Attachment A to 2-12-10 Seminole Submission on Banked Card Games Download Attachment B to 2-12-10 Seminole Submission on Banked Card Games