With its compact with the state of Florida expired and now in federal court to protect its multibillion dollar gambling interests, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has retained one of Tallahassee’s most prominent governmental affairs firms.
Floridian Partners, the lobbying shop headed up by Charlie Dudley, was inked this week to represent the Tribe before the Rick Scott administration and the Florida Legislature.
What’s particularly interesting about this registration is, until recently, Floridian Partners had been signed with Las Vegas Sands, the gambling behemoth headed by billionaire Sheldon Adelson. But the casino resort operation last month abandoned its efforts to eventually build a casino in Florida and canceled its lobbying contracts with Capital City Consulting and Floridian Partners.
Within hours of that news, other gambling interests were calling both firms to retain their services.
As things now stand, the Tribe needs all the political help it can get. It already has the gaming experts at Jones Walker, the white shoes at PooleMcKinley, and Barry Richard, and Screven Watson.
“We are proud to join the team in representing the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” Dudley said.
The Tribe and the state have been at odds for months over renewing a deal granting the Seminoles exclusive rights to blackjack in Florida.
The blackjack provision is one part of an agreement known as the Seminole Compact. The card-game portion ended July 31 but has a 90-day grace period that included time for informal negotiation and structured mediation. The grace period ended Thursday but the games are still being run.
In return for exclusive rights to blackjack, the Tribe guaranteed $1 billion in payments to the state treasury over five years, starting in 2010-11. The tribe offers card games at seven casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.
The Tribe’s lawyers argue that the state broke its promise of exclusivity by allowing electronic blackjack and player-banked poker elsewhere in the state, including in South Florida. A federal judge sitting in Tallahassee has yet to set a hearing to hear both sides.