Games will go on as Seminoles weigh options By Nick Sortal March 7, 2016 at 9:57 am What happens in a state capitol may not affect people as much as one might think. Case in point: The Florida Legislature once again failed to pass a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, a critical portion of which expired back in July 2015. The bill officially died Friday, and the session ends March 11. The result: Blackjack, baccarat and other table games continue at the five Seminole properties outlined in a 2010 compact. And they’ll likely still be rolling along when the legislature convenes next spring. “The Tribe is going to take time to carefully consider all of its options,” Seminole spokesman Gary Bitner said. In 2007, the Seminoles and then-Gov. Charlie Crist reached a compact for blackjack, only to see it voided by the courts, who ruled that the legislature also must sign off on such an agreement. The tribe was beginning to pay more than $200 million per year to the state, and they had already begun offering the games. So they simply kept the tables open, while the courts and the legislature worked things out. “I think they’ll do exactly what they did last time,” said Steve Geller, a former Florida state senator and former president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. He said the Seminoles likely will pay their expected state portion to either a trust or perhaps even directly to Florida as a sign of good faith that a deal will be reached. Geller said it’s understandable the legislature was cautious about altering the state’s gambling landscape, because a court case that could open up six counties for slot machines is awaiting a July hearing in the Florida Supreme Court. If plaintiff Gretna Racing wins, the state’s promise for Seminole slot exclusivity outside of South Florida goes out the window. “And I think next year, more likely than not, if the supreme courts rules by fall on the Gretna case, then you have the conditions for a compact,” Geller said. But that’s a big caveat. The tribe, meanwhile has a suit against the state pending, declaring that their compact was voided because the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering approved games similar to Ultimate Texas Hold ‘em, Pai Gow Poker and War. Pari-mutuels has argued the games pit player vs. player, and thus are OK under current laws because they are classified as poker. An agreement between the state and the Seminoles is only one step, though, Geller notes. The Department of Interior still must review compacts and agree that the tribes are receiving an adequate benefit for the money they are paying. News reports show that under the Obama administration, the department has been viewed as more Indian-friendly, and has been more likely to reject compacts.