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A multi-million dollar gambling dispute pays off for both sides

An attorney representing one side of a highly contested legal dispute referred to it as a rare settlement where everybody benefits and nobody gives up anything.

Apparently, it was a gamble that paid off for all.

In 2015, the Seminole Tribe of Florida sued the state of Florida in federal court over violating a 2010 non-compete agreement. The tribe specifically accused regulators of authorizing a specific form of card game at several pari-mutuel facilities and card rooms. The state counter-sued, claiming that the five-year exclusive agreement had expired in July of that year, alleging that the tribe was violating the pact.

In their counter-claim, Florida officials also asked U.S. District Court judge Robert Hinkle to order the tribe to shut down gaming. Hinkle sided with the tribe, concluding that the state breached the gaming compact that subsequently triggered an exception to the agreed-upon five-year limit, extending the compact to 2030.

The state appealed. During the most recent legislative session, lawmakers failed to renew the compact or resolve the dispute. In response, the tribe considered the option of withholding payments until the conflict was resolved.

Following negotiations, an agreement between Florida state regulators and the Seminole Tribe of Florida will continue blackjack and end competing card games in the state. By dropping a lawsuit, the state will gain access to more than $340 million in new money.

Monthly revenue sharing between the state and the tribe will continue in exchange for the state agreeing to enforce a judge’s ruling to operate blackjack and other banked card games at Seminole-owned casinos for another 13 years.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation must also enforce a rule that gives the tribe exclusivity and prevents competing casinos and card rooms from offering similar games.

The jackpot-sized pot of money, both now in the future, ensures the continuation of the compact while preventing any gaming expansion.

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