Seminoles pay state USD 50 million in casino deal

The Seminole Tribe paid USD 50 million to the state Monday, as required under its gambling agreement with Gov. Charlie Crist, after the controversial deal became official.

„Today’s transfer of USD 50 million to the state of Florida is just the beginning of revenue that will potentially provide billions of dollars to Florida’s schools during the next 25 years,“ Crist said in a statement. „While the Legislature holds the authority to appropriate these funds, I am confident they will use the power of the purse to improve the quality of life of Floridians for generations to come.“

Another USD 50 million will be due later this year, under the terms of the deal, which is expected to bring the state at least USD 100 million a year for 25 years.

An attempt last week by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum to delay the agreement until the Florida Supreme Court can review the deal fell short Friday, when a federal judge in Washington refused to halt the final approval. On Monday, the notice of the agreement was published in the Federal Register.

The tribe has said it is months away from installing the new games in its seven casinos. Under the deal, the Seminoles can run Class III, or Las Vegas-style slot machines as well as card games such as blackjack. The new games can be installed at all seven Seminole casinos, including the Hard Rock complexes near Hollywood and Tampa.

„The tribe takes a long-term view of this agreement,“ said Seminole spokesman Gary Bitner. „They have to hire and train people. They won’t be rushing to put the games in until they can do it right.“

But the agreement, called a compact, still faces a challenge in the Florida Supreme Court. House Speaker Marco Rubio filed suit in November, shortly after Crist and the tribe signed the agreement, arguing that the governor did not have the right to bind the state to the deal without legislative approval.

The case is scheduled for arguments in Tallahassee on Jan. 30.