Casino sues to stop Seminoles‘ card games

Pompano Park’s Isle Casino is suing to keep the Seminole Tribe from offering so-called banked card games at its Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, claiming the games violate the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In November, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a 25-year compact with the Seminole Tribe that allows it to operate Las Vegas-style slot machines and card games in seven existing facilities on tribal lands, including Tampa, in exchange for minimum annual payments of USD 100 million to the state. The U.S. Department of Interior approved the deal in January, and the tribe is planning on opening the new games later this month.

However, in the suit, filed in the Northern District of Florida against Crist and U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the casino claims banked card games — which allow players to play against the casino, rather than one another — are illegal in Florida and so violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which allows only games already legal in the state. It also claims Crist exceeded his authority in brokering the deal.

Common banked games include blackjack and baccarat.

Pompano Park said it will „suffer irreparable injury by loss of customers, revenue, customer goodwill and competitive standing“ if the compact is allowed to stand. The harness-racing track began operating 1,500 Las Vegas-style slot machines in April 2007. It is one of four Broward County pari-mutuel facilities allowed to have the machines under ballot issues statewide voters approved in 2004 and Broward voters approved in 2005.

The governor’s press secretary Sterling Ivey said Crist’s office is still reviewing the suit, and will determine its strategy for defending itsef over the next several weeks.

„The Seminoles operate six facilities — all within driving distance of Pompano Park. If the Isle at Pompano Park were to operate the same games, our company would face a possible fine and imprisonment, as well as risk our gaming license,“ the suit reads.

The compact is also tangled in a lawsuit with the Florida House. The House and Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, maintain the agreement violates the Florida Constitution’s separation of powers clause, and encroaches on the Legislature’s law and policymaking authority.

The Florida Supreme Court heard the case on Jan. 30 and has not yet made a ruling.