Make us your home page

U.S. attorney in Tampa is asked to fold new Seminole card games

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is asking the U.S. attorney in Tampa to close down new card games, such as blackjack, at the Seminole Tribe's Tampa Hard Rock and Collier County casinos.

The state Supreme Court in July struck down a gambling agreement signed by the tribe and Gov. Charlie Crist that sanctioned Las Vegas-style games at seven Seminole casinos. Crist overstepped his authority by allowing illegal "banked'' card games without legislative approval, the court ruled.

Since then, the tribe has expanded the games — blackjack, baccarat and others in which gamblers play against casino dealers — beyond the original location at Seminole Hard Rock Casino near Hollywood.

Without prior announcement, the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa opened 104 card tables last month. On Dec. 5, the tribe unveiled 12 tables at its casino in Immokalee, near Fort Myers.

In a letter Wednesday, McCollum urged A. Brian Albritton, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, to "initiate a criminal prosecution to put an end to the calculated illegal expansion'' of the card games.

As a sovereign nation, the Seminole Tribe isn't under state authority. But a federal prosecutor can pursue violations of law on an Indian reservation. Steve Cole, a spokesman for Albritton, said his boss was aware of the letter, "but at this time it's not appropriate to comment.''

McCollum has tried without success to persuade federal regulators to stop the disputed games. The National Indian Gaming Commission continues to study the Supreme Court decision, said spokesman Shawn Pensoneau on Thursday.

The commission's top attorney wrote a letter Oct. 23 asking the Seminoles to confirm that they did not plan to expand the card games while the agency reviews the gambling agreement in light of the Supreme Court decision.

The attorney, acting general counsel Penny J. Coleman, noted in a follow-up letter that the tribe subsequently started house-banked card games in Tampa and added table games in Hollywood.

"Given our ongoing review of this issue, we ask that as a sign of good faith, the Tribe refrain from opening any additional (banked card games) at any of the other tribal gaming operations,'' she wrote Seminole Chairman Mitchell Cypress on Nov. 18.

The tribe agreed not to expand the games beyond the current locations, said Barry Richard, an attorney for the Seminoles.

Seminole officials want to work with Crist and legislative leaders on a new deal, or compact, that could go before the Legislature this spring. The tribe continues to give Florida a share of gambling revenues guaranteed under the compact to total $100-million in the first year.

"I don't understand why the attorney general can't give us a few months to work this out,'' Richard said. "It would keep thousands of people from losing their jobs and keep money flowing into the state of Florida when we need it urgently.''

Separately, Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Broward County filed a motion Thursday asking the state Supreme Court to enforce its ruling in the case.

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

U.S. attorney in Tampa is asked to fold new Seminole card games 12/18/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 2:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday


    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.