Seminole tribe cuts off funding to state

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Starting Wednesday, the Seminole tribe said it will no longer pay the state a share of its casino revenues.

The tribe contended the state broke its deal by allowing dog and horse tracks to offer banked card games.

Florida will lose an estimated $30 million a month it may never get back.

In November 2016, a federal Judge found the state was violating its compact with the Seminole tribe by allowing horse and dog tracks to run games where the house pays winners and collects from losers.

“Like Blackjack,” explained Seminole Tribe Attorney Barry Richard.

A letter sent to the Governor suspended roughly $30 million a month in payments to the state immediately.

“The tribe refrained from doing this for two years when it could have in order to be cooperative, but they are paying for something they are not getting, and like anybody else, if you are paying for someone to cut your grass and they’re not cutting half of the yard, you stop paying,” said Richard.

Lawmakers tried to fix the problem with a new deal, but time ran out in the 2019 session. It’s clear they planned on the money spigot running dry.

“We’re not to count dollars that we've been told are not believed to be owed by the tribe,” said Senate President Bill Galvano in March.

The tribe said it will start paying the state again once it shuts down the banked card games, but the tribe says the money it won’t pay is gone forever.

“The back suspension payments don’t have to be returned, but if the state fixes the problem, then the payments renew at that point,” said Richard.

It’s unclear why the state never shut down the games challenged by the Tribe after the 36-page opinion ruled the tribe's contractual rights were being violated.

The state could shut them down any day under existing law.

The tribe can continue with its current games until their deal with the state ends in 2030, but its incentive to settle would be a new compact that allowed Roulette and other games not covered in the current deal.