A history of tribal gaming

By ANGIE DROBNIC HOLAN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 15, 2007

1979: Seminoles' first bingo hall opens in Hollywood.

1981: 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upholds Seminole Tribe's right to operate high-stakes bingo.

1982: Tampa bingo hall opens.

1996: Seminole Tribe takes the state of Florida to the U.S. Supreme Court over the right to sue to win expanding gambling rights. The court says the tribe cannot sue the state.

2002: Tribe breaks ground on $300-million Hard Rock hotel-casinos in Hollywood and Tampa.

June 2002: A federal grand jury indicts three former tribal officials on charges of embezzling $2.7-million and funneling the cash to an offshore corporation.

December 2002: A federal judge throws out all charges against the three defendants after tribal chairman James E. Billie testifies they were following his orders to set up a secret Internet gambling site in Nicaragua.

March 18, 2003: The tribal council removes Billie from tribal chairman's position.

June 17, 2003: The first phase of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa opens, featuring 810 video gambling machines, 28 poker tables and a bingo hall with a capacity for 800.

Nov. 2, 2004: A statewide referendum passes narrowly, allowing a vote on slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties only.

March 8, 2005: Voters in Miami-Dade County reject slots, but Broward County voters approve them.

December 2005: During his campaign for governor, Charlie Crist says he opposes the expansion of gambling but also says the state should respect "the will of the people" in Broward County who voted to allow slot machines.

Dec. 7, 2006: The Seminole Tribe announces its intention to purchase the Hard Rock brand, including restaurants, hotels, rock memorabilia and licensing rights to casinos, for $965-million from Rank Group PLC of London.

March 5, 2007: The Seminoles close the deal to buy the Hard Rock. Seminole leaders said it was the first purchase of a major international corporation by an American Indian tribe.

June 22: The U.S. Department of the Interior tells Gov. Crist he has 60 days to reach an agreement allowing the tribe to offer the same type of slots now permitted in Broward County. Otherwise, the federal government will impose an agreement, cutting Florida out of a share of the profits.

Aug. 21: Citing progress on the part of Crist and the tribe, the Interior Department allows negotiations to continue.

Wednesday: Crist announces a 25-year deal with the Seminoles that allows the tribe to offer Las Vegas-style slot machines and certain card games such as blackjack and baccarat. The deal would guarantee $100-million for the state in the first year.

Source: Times archives