Here is where I will contradict the easy estimation that “gaming” was a big loser this session.
What I am about to say in no way detracts from the fact that No Casinos and Disney are clear winners. These organizations had clear direction, strategy, message and delivery. Their game was impeccable and unlikely to be derailed with ease.
But allow me to explain how gaming interests also won, but in a different way, and due entirely to the ill-fated foibles of the Scott administration.
Rick Scott and his beleaguered chief of staff made a massive tactical blunder by exposing the Seminole Compact negotiations — and in doing so, they effectively killed any chance that a deal will be ratified before next year.
This means that gaming expansion is once again back up for consideration during the next legislative session.
Second, the terms of the negotiation were exposed: $2.55 billion over seven years, plus a new facility in Fort Pierce for the Seminoles.
While these terms are obviously a non-starter with the Legislature, knowing these details gives Genting, parimutuels and other gaming advocates a huge leg up on any potential negotiations in the future. We now know for certain that any Seminole compact will require at least that much, and more than likely a lot more in terms of payments to the state.
Third, the pinheads surrounding Rick Scott once again did nothing except create more enemies than they can count by attempting to negotiate such a deal in the first place. Let’s count them:
1) Every gaming interest that ever donated a dime to Rick Scott now doesn’t trust him.
2) The Seminoles are furious for outing the deal. They don’t trust him and are likely to support Charlie more than ever. (As if their support for Crist was ever really a question, right?)
3) The Legislature holds a degree of disdain for the Scott staff (mostly Hollingsworth) that is palpable and stems from the fact that Hollingsworth naively believes the governor is in a position of strength. He isn’t. He will veto many turkeys in the budget. That’s nothing new. But when that’s done, he’s the lamest of lame ducks, and Hollingsworth will be neutered.
So, to recap, here’s how Scott’s maladroit team once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, made enemies of friends, and tried to split the proverbial baby only to make everyone mad.
(Think Medicaid expansion, where Scott said he was for it and did nothing after that, enraging his base while cementing his image among moderates as a lip-service politician willing to say anything to win a vote…)
In the case of gaming expansion this year, Scott’s handlers pissed off the Legislature, guys like Sheldon Adelson, parimutuels, and the Seminoles. That’s the whole list, guys.
For these reasons, I offer gaming expansion as a non-loser thanks to the loserdom of Scott and Hollingsworth. No, Genting and Sands are not closer to establishing a beachhead on South Beach, but thanks to some epic gubernatorial nincompoopery, gaming allies may soon sit in the winner’s circle alongside their foes, Disney and No Casinos.