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Judge Transfers State Lawsuit Against Seminoles

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A federal lawsuit filed by the state against the Seminole Tribe of Florida has been transferred to Tallahassee, where it will join another pending lawsuit about gambling at Seminole casinos.

U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington issued an order Tuesday transferring the case from Tampa to Tallahassee. The order granted a request from the Seminole Tribe, which filed the other case in Tallahassee.

The legal disputes stem from a 2010 gambling agreement, known as a "compact," between the state and the Seminoles.  A part of the deal giving tribal casinos the exclusive rights to offer banked card games, such as blackjack, expired this summer.

After the end of a 90-day grace period that allowed the tribe to continue offering the games, the Seminoles filed a lawsuit in October in federal court in Tallahassee. That lawsuit accused the state of acting in "bad faith" about negotiations on a new gambling deal and asked a judge to allow the tribe to keep holding the card games.

Less than a week later, the state filed a separate lawsuit in Tampa, seeking to stop the games.

In her order Tuesday, Covington pointed to what is known as the "first-filed rule," which favors the lawsuit filed first on issues such as transferring related cases. She wrote that common sense "and judicial economy militate strongly in favor of applying the first-filed rule."