RSS Feed for this Blog

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Compact Story

- Blackjack and baccarat will continue at the Seminole tribe's Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood Beach, Florida; for now, anyway. (Although a scheduled appearance there by Yes has sadly been canceled.) The Florida Supreme Court may have invalidated Governor Crist's compact with the Seminoles on constitutional grounds. But how the decision will actually be enforced is unclear.

"...State law, Indian law and federal law are a quagmire of contradictions," said Bruce Rogow, an attorney who represented the Seminoles in 1995 before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The real question is, how does the court's order get enforced?" Rogow said. "I don't see the state sending in the Florida Highway Patrol to shut them down." [Orlando Sentinel]
But the Isle Casino & Racing at Pompano Park is trying to do just that....without the highway troopers. It filed a lawsuit last month seeking to block the table games, and returned to court to remind the judge of the high court's decision. And the harness track would seem to have the state law on its side.
Robert Jarvis, a Nova Southeastern University law professor and gambling law expert, said he expects either a state or federal judge could issue an injunction to end the games.

"A judge has to grant the injunction. You cannot have gambling that violates state law," Jarvis said.

Pete Antonacci, a former deputy state attorney general whose law firm represents the Mardi Gras racino, said any appeals likely would be fruitless.

"There may be some ingenious avenue to appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. I don't see it because this is purely a matter of state law," he said. [Sun-Sentinel]
But the tribe is leaning on the federal law, and the fact that the compact was approved by US Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
"The tribe is obviously not going to operate in violation of any federal rulings or federal law," Seminole attorney Barry Richard of Tallahassee said.

"Right now, there is no legal reason for the Seminoles to stop what they're doing," he said, adding that the tribe will rely on federal approval of its gaming operations. [Orlando Sentinel]
It was the Interior Department which prodded the Governor to reach a compact agreement by setting a November 15 deadline for the state to do so after 16 years of inaction on the issue. Since the Broward racinos were permitted to have Class III slots, the tribe, by law, was permitted to as well. Without the agreement, in which the Seminoles gained exclusive rights to the two card games, the tribe could have added the slots and shut the state out entirely from a piece of the action.

The tribe has 15 days to file for a rehearing; they could also appeal to the US Supreme Court. Or Governor Crist could try and negotiate a deal with the state legislators who filed the lawsuit in the first place, claiming, successfully, that the Governor didn't have the power to negotiate and sign the deal by himself. I've seen speculation that the Republican legislature, queasy about gambling altogether, would nonetheless agree to the same deal except for an increase in the state's share (currently at least $100 million a year); and that the tribe would agree. Richard, the Seminoles attorney, said that the tribe isn't inclined to negotiate with the Legislature. But he's probably just negotiating.

While the Broward racinos and the ones to come in Miami were naturally happy with the Supreme Court decision, they need to blow the compact agreement up entirely. It would be a hollow victory should a similar deal be struck. The tribe would still get the blackjack and baccarat games exclusively (and that's not believed to be effected by the court decision); and any additional financial burden on the tribe would have to be quite a bit in order to significantly narrow the difference in tax rates. The racinos pay the state 50%, while the agreed-to payments by the tribe (which has already paid the state $60 million [which the legislature has refused to spend]), are reported to be come out to around 10%.

- This PDF document contains the latest figures from the Florida racinos. And with all my whining about how bad business in Saratoga is going to be because of the economy, these establishments seem to be doing pretty damn well; and that in a state hard hit by the mortgage crisis. Unbelievable. People really like to gamble, don't they? The figures have declined over the last few months, but that's natural as the tourist season ends. Gulfstream cut back on the number of machines, from 1,220 to 825, and it's win per machine doubled this year. Pompano, with the maximum 1500 machines, was cranking out almost 300 per machine during the peak tourist season. Almost $3 billion has been pumped through the three facilities this year.