Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

House leader wants to shut down gambling at Seminole casinos

Gamblers line up to play Las Vegas-style slots at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla., in January 2008. The Legislature has not signed off on a compact with the tribe.

Associated Press (2008)

Gamblers line up to play Las Vegas-style slots at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla., in January 2008. The Legislature has not signed off on a compact with the tribe.

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House of Representatives declared an impasse Wednesday in gambling talks with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and asked the federal government to stop casino games on the tribe's reservations.

After decades of fights in the courts and halls of the Legislature, a clear agreement between the state and the tribe over gambling seemed closer than ever this year.

But as the two sides have squabbled over money, the tribe has continued to offer blackjack and baccarat at casinos. House Speaker Larry Cretul insisted that the Seminoles lacked the authority to do so.

"The disadvantages to the state in attempting to negotiate a compact under the present circumstances are clear," Cretul wrote in a letter to George Skibine, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

"Until the banked card games (and slot machines) are shut down and the tribe gives some indication that it is willing to abide by the law, and ultimately its agreements," Cretul wrote, "it would appear that the state would be ill-advised to enter into any compact with the tribe."

Cretul asked Skibine to consider slapping the tribe with a $25,000 fine for each violation. That could total $350,000 a day, according Bradenton Rep. Bill Galvano, the House's lead negotiator with the Seminole Tribe.

The tribe said it will not pay fines and will continue to offer the games, saying the games are legal under federal law that recognizes Indian tribes as governments separate from states.

Skibine could not be reached for comment. A spokesman, Shawn Pensoneau, said the commissioner received the letter, which he described as "rare." He stressed that the commissioner had not determined how to deal with the issue — if at all.

Skibine has the authority to order a shutdown of the gaming activities, but the process could take months and involve lengthy and costly legal fights over the vaguely worded Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Ultimately, the case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that an initial gambling agreement, or compact, between Gov. Charlie Crist and the tribe wasn't valid because the Legislature hadn't signed off on allowing the tribe to offer blackjack and other table games, which remain illegal under Florida law.

But before the Florida court invalidated the compact, the agreement was published in the Federal Register in January 2008, validating its legality, the tribe argues.

The Florida Supreme Court "only addressed a narrow aspect of the governor's authority and specifically declined to address the status of the compact under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act," tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said in a written statement.

"Since the federal approval of the tribe's 2007 compact has not been reversed by any judicial or administrative decision, the compact remains in effect as a matter of federal law," Bitner wrote. "The tribe's gaming facilities continue to operate in full compliance with the 2007 compact."

Crist told the Times/Herald Wednesday that he held out hope that a deal would still be struck. "I don't know that we've reached an impasse," he said. "I don't agree with that assessment yet."

At stake: At least $150 million in yearly payments from the tribe to the state to help pay for education. Crist has often mentioned the money as a way to preserve and improve schools.

But legislators aren't so sure.

The House's budget chief, Miami Republican David Rivera, said the state faces a potential deficit of $2.6 billion in the budget year that would begin July 1, 2010. To preserve K-12 spending at its current level, the state would need an additional $516 million — more than three times the amount of the Seminole gaming money.

"The speaker and members of the House say there are larger considerations than just money," said Rivera. "Some are worried about the expansion of gaming or the impact on existing parimutuels, and some members have moral considerations. Others think the Seminoles aren't giving enough."

Former state Sen. Steve Geller, a gaming expert, said "Skibine has no choice but to shut this down." But he noted this is uncharted territory "because it never happened before in the four or five cases where a tribe has been told to stop."

Times/Herald staff writers Mary Ellen Klas, Beth Reinhard and Shannon Colavecchio contributed to this report. Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com.

FAST FACTS

Gambling compact time line

. November 2007: Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe of Florida sign a gaming compact allowing for slot machines and banked card games.

. July 2008: The Florida Supreme Court rules that Crist did not have the authority to agree to the compact without legislative approval.

. May: House and Senate leaders agree on what they want in a gambling compact and give the governor until August to negotiate the deal with the Seminoles.

. August: Crist and the tribe agree to a compact, but it does not include many of the provisions sought by legislators. The deal still must be approved by the Legislature.

House leader wants to shut down gambling at Seminole casinos 10/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 11:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pitching on no rest backfires for Erasmo Ramirez, Rays

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — After battling through a 61/2-hour affair Sunday in Minnesota that was the second-longest game in franchise history, Rays officials were quick to decide that even though Erasmo Ramirez had just worked the 15th and final inning, they would stick with him to start Monday's game in Texas.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers, comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  3. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  4. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  5. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)