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Full Scope Of Gaming Tribe Prepares Application

By E. Bowers

HOLLYWOOD - "We want every game the State has," said Judith Shapiro, an attorney with the Washington law firm Hobbs, Strauss, Dean & Walker. Shapiro outlined the Tribe's gaming application, to be sent to Bruce Babbitt, the U.S. Secretary of Interior, at a special Council meeting on May 7.

The application, which asks for full-scope gaming on all Seminole reservations, is in response to the regulations published on April 12 by Babbitt that would allow gaming on Seminole and Miccosukee reservations.

The regulations were issued upon the expiration of the Enzi amendment on March 31. The amemdment had tied the Secretary's hands for more than a year.

However, the Enzi Amendment and other obstacles may stand in the way of the application's approval. The states of Florida and Alabama filed suit on April 15 to block the new regulations and the case seems destined to wind up in the Supreme Court. The Seminole Tribe intervened, and is a party to the suit, which is currently before the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee.

Also, Charles Wilson, U.S. Attorney for the middle district of Florida, filed suit in 1997 to remove machines from the Tampa and Immokalee casinos.

According to Jerry Strauss, a lawyer for Hobbs, Strauss, Dean & Walker, the situation is day to day. "The Enzi amendment is very much live," said Straus. "Congress has the power to stop it. It's possible that it could be stopped."

However, even if the amendment is voted down, it still could be tacked onto a number of bills including the large Omnibus Interior Appropriations bill.

Nevertheless, Strauss believes the Tribe should have the application on the Secretary's desk when the 30-day waiting period is over, regardless of what is happening with the lawsuit.

If the application is submitted before a new Enzi amendment is passed, the Tribe's position is strengthened (the earliest the Enzi amendment could have been passed was May 12-14). The longer it takes to pass the amendment, the stronger the Tribe's position.

The Secretary then has 30 days to review the package and if he approves it the Tribe's position is strengthened even further.

As for the lawsuits, Strauss said there was a question as the whether the filing of the Florida/Alabama suit is premature. The middle district suit is also moving very slowly. Legally, the prime objective right now "is to make sure nothing interferes with operations," said Straus.

Right now, the "landscape has changed for the better with the issuance of these regulations," said Strauss.

Shapiro presented and explained the package (which is two binders thick) to the Tribal Council. Both Straus and Shapiro noted the main difference between the proposal offered to the State of Florida, and the one to the Secretary is that Florida's role in the negotiations is smaller.

"The Seminole Tribe will be the principal regulator of any Seminole Tribe casino," said Shapiro, "the State can monitor if it wants."

"There will be no piece of the action. We'll let them (state officials) look at the games, that's it, and only if they participate in the procedural process."

The package details past negotiations between the Seminole Tribe and Florida, along with videotapes of the Florida Lottery game show "Flamingo Fortune." The tapes show contestants winning prize money in games involving dice and other activities. It is similar to games that Attorney General Bob Butterworth has complained about at Seminole and Miccosukee casinos.

To facilitate the process, the proposed gaming policies and procedures will be similar to those that Babbitt has already approved for other tribes.

If approved, the Tribe will be able to operate every casino game except for sports book, which is only legal in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Sports book offers wagering on professional and college sports.

After hearing the list of games the Tribe could operate, Tribal Chairman James E. Billie asked, "What about the hookers and drug dealers?"

"Those aren't Class III," said Shapiro.

"Oh, that's what Butterworth and those guys always talk about," Billie added. "Well, we wanted them, we never got them, and we're all pissed off. Maybe we should hang around those guys to see what they're talking about," said Billie.

Strauss said there is speculation that the key figure behind the Enzi Amendment is not Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WO) but Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA). However, Straus noted that Gorton's image is questionable and the anti-gaming legislation helps Enzi's re-election bid in a state whose voters are largely members of the Christian Right.

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