Seminole Tribe takes a big step forward with land-into-trust bid

The Seminole Tribe owns and operates the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino in Coconut Creek, Florida. Photo from Facebook

The Seminole Tribe is finally seeing progress on a long-awaited plan to develop land around one of its casinos in southern Florida.

Nearly six years after starting the land-into-trust process, the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued the final environmental impact statement for the 45-acre project on Wednesday. Plans call for a 1,000-room hotel, 47,000 square-feet of retail space, 54,000 square-feet of dining space and a 2,500 seat showroom adjacent to the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino in Coconut Creek.

"Bringing the surrounding 45-acres of STOF-owned parcels into trust will enable STOF to more easily develop the entire site into a destination resort with a variety of activities that would both diversify revenues and increase income," the document states. "The hotel and other amenities would attract visitors beyond those interested purely in gaming and would contribute to longer on-site visits for those who are interested in gaming."

But even though the acquisition of the land will benefit the casino, the BIA did not treat the project as gaming-related. Local officials were calling on the agency to force the tribe to follow the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which would have drawn out the process even longer because the governor's approval would have been required.

The tribe apparently considered going that route but the BIA said such a proposal "would likely increase public opposition to the project and reduces the likelihood of the property being brought into federal trust."

If the tribe ever expands the gaming portion of the casino, an agreement with the city requires "an annual fee to the city for each square foot of new gaming facility," according to the document.

"Developing the project site for expanded gaming was rejected because of the potential controversy, as well as the expense," the BIA wrote.

The BIA must still issue a record of decision and place the property in trust before the tribe moves forward with the project. The EIS is open for public comments.

Federal Register Notices:
Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Seminole Tribe of Florida Fee-to-Trust Project, City of Coconut Creek, Broward County, Florida (June 29, 2016)
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Seminole Tribe of Florida Fee-to-Trust, City of Coconut Creek, Broward County, FL (August 31, 2012)

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