Florida Makes Progress on New Gambling Deal with Seminole Tribe
Florida lawmakers have apparently made progress on a new gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe that could see $700 million enter the state’s coffers every year.
However, this year’s legislative session is waning and there might not be sufficient time for a new deal to be given proper consideration by all parties involved.
The lack of time was what prompted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to reject a deal tabled before him in the spring of 2019. It is to be seen how things would turn this time around and whether the state would be able to make peace with the Seminoles and the tribe would resume making annual payments to Florida after it ceased sharing a portion of its gambling revenue after the deal failed to get Gov. DeSantis’ blessing.
Florida House and Senate lawmakers have for weeks been holding talks over a new gambling deal with the Seminoles. However, the tribe has prominently not been part of those discussions. In addition, legislators indicated that there was not much progress in their efforts to present a new gambling compact up until this past Tuesday.
Senate President Bill Galvano, who played a key part in the passage of the original compact with the Seminole Tribe in 2010, said yesterday that they have made progress on a new deal internally and that they are now engaged in negotiations with the Seminoles.
What a New Deal Would Involve?
Florida lost roughly $350 million in annual payments from the Seminoles’ casinos when the tribe ceased sharing a portion of its gambling revenue with the state.
Under the original 2010 compact between the state Legislature and tribal officials, the Seminoles agreed to make annual payments to Florida in exchange for the exclusive right to offer blackjack at their casinos.
It was about five years later when the tribe first threatened the state that it would stop contributing a portion of its revenue, arguing that Florida lawmakers have breached their part of the compact by allowing the state’s pari-mutuels to offer designated player card games.
The Seminoles claimed that those games were very much identical with the card games offered at its casinos in Florida. A judge sided with the tribe, saying that the controversial games indeed breached the blackjack exclusivity provision in the original compact.
According to sources familiar with the ongoing talks, Florida lawmakers would allow the tribe to add other table games at its casinos such as roulette and craps. In addition, tribal casinos would also be offered exclusivity over online sports betting.
In exchange, the tribe would be expected to pay about $500 million in the first year and up to $700 million in annual payments in the years after.
On the other hand, it is understood that the state would also allow pari-mutuels to host designated player card games. But this could be a big stumbling block in lawmakers’ negotiations with the Seminoles.
It should also be noted that any potential expansion of gambling in Florida such as the authorization of sports betting could be quite problematic as under a constitutional amendment approved in the fall of 2018, state residents have the exclusive right to rule on any gambling-related matters.
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