Reprint from Associated Press

To Resolve a Lawsuit Over Lease Payments, the Tribe Will Require a Developer’s Interest in Coconut Creek Casino.

Published April 1, 2004

MIAMI - The Seminole Tribe of Florida has agreed to buy out the developer of the tribe's Coconut Creek Casino as part of a lawsuit settlement, attorneys said Wednesday. Tribal leaders reached the agreement Tuesday with Coconut Creek Gaming, the development partnership that built the casino, tribe attorney Joel Hirschhorn said. The case was scheduled to go to trial this year.

According to court documents, Coconut Creek Gaming built the casino and signed a 10-year lease with the Seminole Tribe. The tribe repaid $20-million in construction and startup costs and in October 2000 began paying monthly rent payments equal to 35 percent of the casino's net revenues.

But the tribe questioned the validity of the lease agreement and stopped making payments after June 2002. Coconut Creek Gaming, which said the monthly payments averaged $1.79-million in the last six months it was paid, sued the tribe to force it to pay the balance of the lease payments.

Under the settlement, the tribe no longer has to share profits with the developer and "bought out the position" of Coconut Creek Gaming in the casino deal, Hirschhorn said. A dollar amount was not disclosed, Hirschhorn said. "The tribe is looking forward to the future and continuing to be a positive force in the community," Hirschhorn said.

The office of Craig Rasile, a lawyer for Coconut Creek Gaming, referred calls to the tribe. The Coconut Creek Casino opened in February 2000 and generated an average of $5.1-million in monthly net revenues in the first half of 2002.

U.S. District Court Judge William Dimitrouleas dismissed the case on March 25.

The tribe generates $300-million a year from its gambling empire, which also includes gaming facilities in Immokalee and on the Brighton Reservation. Every person in the 3,000-member tribe receives a monthly dividend from gaming earnings. Tribal leaders also announced that the opening of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood will be May 11.