A federal judge has flatly refused a request from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to reconsider a ruling that Florida violated a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a two-page order Tuesday, less than a week after attorneys for Scott and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation submitted a 33-page document requesting changes in Hinkle’s Nov. 9 ruling in favor of the tribe.
“This case was tried to the court. A written opinion set out the court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. The defendant has moved to alter or amend the judgment,” Hinkle wrote in the order. “For the most part, the motion simply reargues the merits. The original opinion correctly analyzes the issues. This order denies the motion to alter or amend.”
The November ruling and Tuesday’s order were part of a legal battle about blackjack and other types of games at Seminole casinos and what are known as “designated player games” at horse-racing and other parimutuel facilities regulated by the state.
In siding with the tribe in November, Hinkle ruled that designated-player games at parimutuels violate a 2010 agreement that gave the tribe exclusive rights to operate “banked” card games, such as blackjack, in exchange for paying $1 billion to the state.
A five-year agreement dealing with the banked card games — part of a larger, 20-year deal — expired in 2015, prompting the Seminoles to file the lawsuit. The state, meanwhile, filed a separate lawsuit asking the judge to order the tribe to shut down blackjack and other banked games, which the Seminoles have continued to operate.
Hinkle agreed with the Seminoles that the state-authorized designated player games, also known as “player-banked” games, triggered an exception to the five-year agreement. He ordered that the tribe be allowed to continue to conduct the banked games for the remainder of the overall compact’s 20-year term.
Amid the legal wrangling, Scott’s administration and the tribe have tried to negotiate a revised compact. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said Tuesday it is a priority for him to get a compact ratified — a move that would require legislative approval. A spokesman for the tribe declined to provide details of the negotiations.