Letter: Feds may not have approved new Seminole Compact

Seminole hard rock Casino Tampa

The nation’s top Indian gambling regulator last year told the Seminole Tribe of Florida that the federal government would be “hard-pressed” to approve its new blackjack agreement with the state.

The tribe on Tuesday disclosed the June 2016 letter from Paula L. Hart, director of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Indian Gaming, as an attachment to its own letter this week to Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders. (The letters are here.)

Tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola told the state that this year’s gambling legislation “neither would satisfy the requirements of federal law nor satisfy fundamental tribal concerns” and called them “not acceptable.”

The tribe’s concern was that it would be financially squeezed by the Legislature’s current proposals without getting enough in return. It offers blackjack at five of its seven casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa.

The Hart letter also confirmed a warning that Barry Richard, the tribe’s outside counsel, gave three years ago.

In a March 2014 interview with the Tampa Tribune, he explained that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act prohibited tribes from paying states more than the cost of gambling regulation.

The Interior Department later interpreted the law to mean that a tribe may give a cut to a state in return for exclusive rights to a game, but the amount a tribe pays has to be a “fair value” for the exclusivity it’s getting, he said. 

Richard told the newspaper the feds will reject a deal if they think a tribe is paying more than the deal is worth: “(Their) message has been, ‘don’t push us on this,’ ” he said.

Hart later echoed Richard’s position when she discussed last year’s gambling bills, saying their gambling expansion provisions “dilute” the renewed compact that granted the Seminoles exclusive rights to blackjack in return for $3 billion over seven years.

“We would be hard-pressed to envision a scenario where we could lawfully approve or otherwise allow a compact to go into effect that calls for increased revenue sharing and reductions in existing exclusivity,” she wrote.

Fast forward to this year, with bills that contain many of the same proposals as last year, including expanding the availability of slot machines and card games.

“The Senate bill would require the same higher payments … (and) would add numerous additional exceptions to the Tribe’s exclusivity while broadly expanding gaming in Florida,” Osceola told Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“The House bill is less objectionable in that it does not propose as many new exceptions,” but it too “proposes major increases in the Tribe’s payments … without providing the necessary additional value.”

Osceola concluded by saying he was still willing “to work out a mutually beneficial agreement.” The 2017 Legislative Session starts next Tuesday.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.


4 comments

  • Paul R. Jones

    March 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Question for Florida’s politicians…a question so simple, it is hard.
    “Where is the proclamation ratified by 1/3rd of the votes of the United States to amend the Constitution to make the health, welfare, safety and benefits of a select group of U.S./State citizens distinguishable because of their “Indian ancestry/race?”

    • Eric Keaton

      March 2, 2017 at 10:49 am

      …LoL, as if there is an answer.!! And even if there was an answer for ya.. You would not benefit in either case. Where’s the proclamation.?! What does it look like.? It got ratified.?! Who would want to turn it into a rat anyway.?

      Is it like a band aid or something.? What will it fix.? Whats broke? I don’t think it said anything in the constitution about native americans. LOL. There are no proclamations. LoL.. There’s treaties.. but no proclamations..

      As far as anyone is concerned, the Seminole don’t have either a treaty or proclamation with florida.. LoL. They do have their own Government.. which is why there is a Compact in place.. There is no 1/3 vote for anything.

      There is a Bureau of Indian Affairs.. but no proclamation. LoL.. Im sure there are plenty of other races for you to find and amuse yourself with..

      Health, welfare, safety and benefits of a select group of U.S./State citizens are often abused by U.S./State citizens.. LoL.. Tribal Members are Tribal Members. Perhaps you should be inquiring about the proclamation to protect state citizens from state political agendas which aim to strip state citizens of health, welfare, safety and benefits. LoL.

      • Paul R. Jones

        March 13, 2017 at 11:48 am

        Eric Keaton March 2, 2017 at 10:49 am: You are misinformed and misguided about the U.S. Constitution-guaranteed protections of one’s citizenship and you missed the entire point of my original post. As of The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, there are no more “Indians” within the original meaning of the United States Constitution…only U.S/State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” entitled to no more and no less than every other non-Indian U.S./State citizen.The United States Constitution makes for no provisions for:
        1. Indian sovereign nations. None of the asserted tribes possess any of the attributes of being a ‘sovereign nation:’ a. No Constitution recognition b. No international recognition c. No fixed borders d. No military e. No currency f. No postal system g. No passports
        2. Treaties with its own constituency
        3. Indian reservations whereby a select group of U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” reside exclusively and to the exclusion of all others, on land-with rare exception-that is owned by the People of the United States according to federal documents readily available on-line that notes rights of renters as ‘occupancy and use’ by these distinguished U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” only with the land owned by the People of the United States.
        4. Recognition of ‘Indian citizenship’ asserted by various tribes. There is no international recognition of “Indian citizenship” as there is no ‘nation’ from which citizenship is derived.
        A simple question once again for Florida politicians and MSM to answer…a question so simple, it is hard:
        “Where is the proclamation ratified by 1/3rd of the voters of the United States that amends the Constitution to make the health, welfare, safety and benefits of a select group of U.S./State citizens distinguishable because of their “Indian ancestry/race?”

  • Eric Keaton

    March 1, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    What do you tell a guy with 2 black eyes..? Nothing. He’s already been told twice.

Comments are closed.


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