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Seminole Tribe wins ruling over state taxation at gaming facilities

Filed Under: Federal Register | Litigation
More on: bia, florida, seminole, taxation

A view of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. Photo from Facebook

A federal judge has barred the state of Florida from imposing taxes at gaming facilities owned by the Seminole Tribe.

The tribe leases space at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa to non-Indian businesses. The state imposed rental taxes on the leases even though the businesses operate on Indian land.

In a September 5 decision, Judge Robert Scola determined that federal law bars the tax. He cited a recent Bureau of Indian Affairs regulation that tribes nationwide are using to prevent state encroachment.

"This court must give some weight and deference to the new regulations," Scola wrote. "For the reasons detailed by the Secretary of the Interior, this court finds that the federal regulatory scheme regarding leases of restricted Indian land is so pervasive that it precludes the additional burdens imposed by Florida’s rental tax," he continued.

Scola also struck down a second tax -- a utility tax that was being charged on electricity delivered to the reservation. He said the burden to pay the tax impermissibly falls on the tribe.

"A state may not directly tax an Indian tribe on an Indian reservation unless a federal statute expressly permits the tax," Scola wrote.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Seminole Tribe v. Florida.

Get the Story:
Seminole Duck Taxes on Leased-Out Casino Space (Courthouse News Service 9/11)
Judge backs tribe in state tax dispute (The News Service of Florida 9/11)

Federal Register Notice:
Residential, Business, and Wind and Solar Resource Leases on Indian Land (December 5, 2012)

Related Stories:
Opinion: Decision signals shift on state taxation in Indian Country (9/10)

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