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Florida Chamber, Restaurant Association call for extending Seminole Compact

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Two major pro-business groups, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association are calling for renewal of the gambling agreement between state lawmakers and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

In a television ad released today, Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, urge the state to extend the Seminole Gaming Compact. An essential portion of the Compact, which allows blackjack and other games at the seven Seminole Hard Rock Casinos, expires in July 2015.

Under the current agreement, the Tribe pays the state at least $1 billion over five years. “The Seminole Compact: Partnership” is a 30-second spot calling the Compact a “partnership made in Florida that works for Florida.’’ The ad tries to strike a balance between extending the Compact and expanding gambling to more facilities in Florida.

Both the Chamber and the Restaurant and Lodging Association have been vocal opponents of gambling expansion, including several attempts to allow the construction of destination resort casinos. Last week, Tampa Republican Dana Young, the House majority leader, filed a bill that could permit two destination casinos in South Florida and slot machines at two more greyhound tracks.

“Florida is changing, which is why we need to extend the Compact and limit gambling,” Wilson said in a statement. “Changing it could lead to the expansion of gambling, which simply is unacceptable for a state that has worked hard to grow its economy and develop a family-friendly image.”

“Partnership” is the second in a statewide campaign seeking to raise public awareness of the 20-year Compact. The first ad, which began airing in Tallahassee in early March, says the “historic Compact’’ provides “controlled, profitable and safe” gambling in Florida.

If the deal is not renewed, the state stands to lose as much as $260 million a year from the Seminole Tribe.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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