Gambling is the launch pad that gave the Seminole Tribe of Florida the financial capital to diversify Hard Rock. In Florida, that component is challenged.
Since 2010, the tribe and the state have engaged in a financial agreement that allows the Seminoles to operate banked table games, in which bets can be placed against the house, at five of its seven casinos (including its Hard Rock entities in Hollywood and Tampa). In return, the tribe paid the state about $100 million a year to operate the games and at least $234 million a year for the right to operate slot machines at four casinos outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
But the part of the agreement that includes a five-year provision for the banked games, such as blackjack and baccarat, expired in July 2015.
Despite the expiration, no new agreement has been drafted and the Seminoles have continued offering the games.
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Earlier this year, the tribe reached an agreement with Gov. Rick Scott, which included expansions to the Tampa hotel and casino and a guitar-shaped hotel at the Hollywood property. The new 20-year gaming deal would have given the tribe exclusive Florida rights to operate blackjack, craps and roulette in its seven casinos in exchange for revenue-sharing payments, guaranteeing $3 billion to the state over seven years, beginning in 2017. The payments would be based on a sliding scale that rises the more the tribe makes in profits.
But the deal died in the Florida House of Representatives in March, a week before the end of the Legislative session.
“There are a lot of backs that need to be scratched in the Legislature [to pass the new deal] and the Legislature could not get the backs scratched in the two months it had this year,” said Bob Jarvis, a professor of gambling law at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.
Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit filed by the Seminole tribe against the state last year remains pending. The lawsuit alleges that the state acted in “bad faith” in negotiations for a new deal between the two entities, asking the judge to permit the tribe to continue offering banked card games. In January, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle dismissed a request from the office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to dismiss the case.
“Both sides fully expect that long before the lawsuit gets resolved, they will be able to make a deal,” Jarvis said. “The lawsuit is going at the speed of molasses.”
One thing is for sure: Whatever the outcome on the compact, the Hard Rock International brand will barely be clipped.
“Do we feel that the compact will create a negative outlook on Hard Rock?” asked James Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming and chairman of Hard Rock International. “No.”