2007 – #8 © Copyright 2007, all rights reserved worldwide. Gambling and the Law® is a registered trademark of Professor I Nelson Rose, www.GamblingAndTheLAw.com.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida now owns approximately 70,000 pieces of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. In purchasing Hard Rock International for $965 million, the tribe also bought 68 Hard Rock cafes in 45 countries, licensing and franchise agreements for 56 other restaurants, five hotels, and two Hard Rock Live! concert venues.

Not bad for a tribe that doesn’t have a casino.

If you go to their website, www.seminolehardrock.com, you would never know it. Click on the T.V. ads, or anywhere else, and guess what type of games they’re spreading.

Poker.

Alright, not only poker.

Also bingo.

As one example: The Hollywood, Florida casino, 130,000 square feet with 2,100 slot machines and lots of table games, actually is not a casino. And it doesn’t have any real slot machines.

In the eyes of the law, the Seminoles are only operating Class II card rooms and bingo halls, with linked electronic aides for the bingo.

Since Floridians amended their state constitution in November 2004 to allow parimutuel outlets in two counties to have slot machines, subject to local option, there has been no doubt that the Seminole also had the right, under federal law, to have the same games. If there was any doubt, it was eliminated on March 8th, 2005, when the voters in Broward County approve slot machines.

The Seminoles’ problem was that governors of Florida have refused to talk to them. In a decision that left the issue thoroughly muddled, the U.S. Supreme Court basically held that the part of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) that allowed a tribe to sue a state that refused to negotiate in good faith was unconstitutional. The Court did not knock out any other part of the IGRA. This means that a tribe in a state with Class III slot machines had an absolute right under the IGRA to operate slot machines, but had no remedy to enforce that right.

Some tribal gaming advocates argue that the Secretary of Interior can make regulations over a state’s objections. This is based on an obscure provision of the IGRA that says that the Secretary can get involved, to help with tribal-state negotiations. But it is impossible to believe that Congress intended to let the Secretary become a super-czar of gambling, with the power to force a state to have tribal casinos when the state won’t even talk with its tribes.

The legal situation is about to be resolved, because Florida has a new governor, Charlie Crist, who is talking with the tribes. The state legislature recently approved a bill allowing the parimutuel facilities to have 2,000 slot machines each, up from 1,500. So, it is inevitable that the state and tribe will cut a deal, to allow the tribes to have true slots, with the state getting a share of the revenue.

What does this mean for poker? For years, poker rooms have been legal in Florida, but with a maximum betting limit of $2 and three raises per round. This was actually an improvement over the original law, which limited the entire pot to $10.

But the Florida legislature has raised the limit, and unless Gov. Crist’s vetoes the bill, commercial poker will soon have $5 limits, and $100 max. no limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments, and more.

The state’s tribes will instantly have the right to spread the same games with the same limits.

The question is whether the Seminoles will remember how much they owe, not only to those linked video bingo machines, but also to poker.

END
© Copyright 2007. Professor I Nelson Rose is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on gambling law. His latest books, Internet Gaming Law and Gaming Law: Cases and Materials, are available through his website, www.GamblingAndTheLaw.com.