Before Florida expands gambling, Rick Scott must “seal the deal” with Seminole Tribe

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Before they secure the future of gambling in Florida, both the House and Senate are waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to complete a deal with the Seminole Tribe— but the governor hasn’t yet tipped his hand.

If Scott doesn’t seal the deal before the end of the session May 2, it will be unlikely that lawmakers will be able to ratify the agreement in time.

Any deal with the Tribe will depend on three points, writes Dara Kam in the News Service of Florida: what games they can offer, exclusive rights to provide gambling outside Broward/Miami-Dade Counties and how much they will have to pay the government for the privilege.

“If nothing’s done, the tribe is going to lose their ability to operate the banked card games. That’s a real issue for them and it certainly is leverage for the state of Florida,” State Sen. Bill Galvano told the News Service.

Galvano was instrumental in the current, $1 billion, five-year Seminole Compact that will sunset on Aug. 1, 2015.

“So the heart of the negotiations have to be the continuation of the card authorization,” he added. “Most likely an effort to have additional games at their facilities, and (the Seminoles) would have to a couple that with a new, greater offer of dollars.”

Since the deal in 2010 cleared up some issues, such as lawsuits and smoking areas, Galvano said Scott and the Tribe are now “right at the heart of it: money, games and exclusivity.”

Scott wants Florida to see more of the revenue, perhaps as much as double the $1 billion over five years agreed upon in 2010.

In exchange, the governor could offer for the Tribe to be once again the only entity allowed to operate table games, maybe even adding roulette and craps. Another possibility is a guarantee that the Tribe can reduce payments, or even not have to pay, if they lose exclusivity.

The 2010 deal also required legislative approval for any future compacts, which means Scott is under the gun to bring a proposal to the Legislature prior to May 2 if it will be ratified this year.

“I am very skeptical about that,” Galvano told the News Service. “Last time we were handed a deal it took us two years to approve it.”

“It’s a big issue that needs a lot of deliberation and is tied to policy way beyond just the four corners of the compact.”

Speaker Will Weatherford says the House will not accept any gambling legislation, unless there is a finalized agreement between Scott and the Tribe.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the House Select Committee on Gaming approved an omnibus package opening the door for slot machines in Palm Beach County and the possibility of a  casino hotel in downtown Miami. Both can occur only if the expansions do not affect revenues the state gets from the Seminole Tribe.

 

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.