Seminole Tribe Buys Global Hard Rock Brand, Ousts its Chairman,

Courtesy Semiole Hard Rock Tampa Pictured: Semiole Hard Rock Tampa. The tribe owns the global, rock ’n’ roll-themed chain and is now exclusively entitled to develop, own, license, franchise and manage Hard Rock Casinos and Hotel-Casinos in the western U.S., including Minnesota and state west of the Mississippi River, as well as in Australia, Brazil, Israel, Venezuela and Vancouver.

Big changes are underway for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The tribe recently purchased the remaining rights of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino brand, assuming global ownership. That news, released Friday, followed the the tribe’s ouster of its chairman James E. Billie on Wednesday. And today, Seminole Tribe v. Florida kicks off in federal court in Tallahassee, concerning the tribe’s fight to maintain exclusive statewide rights to offer blackjack and baccarat.

“With the newly acquired rights the Hard Rock brand has now been united for the first time in more than 35 years under one controlling ownership, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, allowing for globally consistent customer service and standards at all of our locations,” Jim Allen, Hard Rock International’s chairman, said in a press release.

As the owner of Hard Rock International, the tribe is now exclusively entitled to develop, own, license, franchise and manage Hard Rock Casinos and Hotel-Casinos in the western U.S., including Minnesota and state west of the Mississippi River, as well as in Australia, Brazil, Israel, Venezuela and Vancouver.

As part of the contract, Hard Rock International assumes the agreements previously held by affiliates of BREF HR, LLC, which owns the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The Seminole Tribe takes over ownership of existing licensees, including the Hard Rock locations in Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Sioux City, Iowa; Tulsa, Okla.; and Vancouver. Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos’ growing portfolio consists of 23 hotels and resorts, as well as 168 Hard Rock Cafes, among other Hard Rock venues in more than 71 countries.

In other news, the Seminole Tribal Council voted 4-0 to remove James E. Billie as chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida on Wednesday, citing “various issues with policies and procedures of the chairman’s office.”

“The tribe considers this an internal matter and is not going to be more specific or elaborate beyond what was said [Wednesday],” Gary Bitner, a tribe spokesman, told tampabay.com.

Billie served as tribal chairman from 1979 to 2001, and again from 2010 to the the end of September 2016. Billie’s life, leadership and dedication to Indian sovereignty are self-reliance are recounted through Wrestling Alligators, the 2016 documentary by director Andrew Shea and filmmaker Udy Epstein that won accolades at the Florida Film Festival, Austin Film Festival and Chagrin Documentary Film Festival. Billie, an alligator wrestler in his youth, is renowned for initiating high-stakes bingo and paving for the way for tribal gaming rights, as well as his 22-year chairmanship from 1979-2001— the “longest tenure of any elected leader in the Western Hemisphere, other than Fidel Castro,” reported the Miami Herald.

Proceedings for Seminole Tribe v. Florida, which combines lawsuits filed by the state and the tribe, are expected to last through Friday. The tribe has argued that under a clause in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the state was required to negotiate a new deal in good faith after the expiration of the first gambling compact.

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