As elections end, talk of renewing Seminole Compact, expanding gambling begins anew

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With the elections over, the possibility of gambling expansion in Florida returns.

Now that Gov. Rick Scott has secured re-election, he expects to resume negotiations with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Scott’s goal is to renew the agreement giving the tribe exclusive rights to table games such as blackjack in exchange for $1 billion over the next five years.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess, writes Nick Sortal of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

On Tuesday, casino operators, legislators and industry professionals gathered in Miami for the annual Florida Gaming Congress to exchange ideas on the state’s rapidly expanding gaming industry.

“We’re hopeful to continue the relationship that’s been so successful,” Seminole Gaming CEO James Allen told reporters after the gathering at the Hyatt Regency.

Nevertheless, the future of gambling in Florida is far from certain. Scott had called for a special session of the Legislature last spring to complete “the most lucrative compact ever,” but it never materialized. Resort casinos continue to seek state approval, as horse and dog tracks, as well as jai-alai frontons, seek consent for table games and a drop in the state’s 35-percent slot tax.

Meanwhile, the Seminoles have been making space at the Hollywood Seminole Paradise, tearing down spots like the Johnny Rockets, Blue Pointe and Tatu eateries. Experts predict the tribe will build a new hotel next to the current 500-room structure that is running at nearly 95 percent capacity. However, any such move must have approval from the Seminole tribal council, Allen said.

“No state addresses gambling policy more than Florida,” said Spectrum managing director Michael Pollack. He said that for each individual they spoke with about the future, there were two to three people offering ideas, opinions or concerns.

“We were cautioned to expect a lot of opinions, concerns and ideas, and that was a complete understatement,” he told the Sun Sentinel.

To address the issues of gambling expansion, greyhound decoupling, horse racing and senior arcades, newly re-elected State Sen. Maria Sachs is calling for a gaming commission, rather than leaving the decision to legislators.

“This is something I’ve been advocating the past number of years,” said the Delray Beach Democrat. “Whether you want more gaming or less gaming.”

“It seems like every state has one except us,” she added. “We need a department independent of political pressures to regulate and formulate policies for the future of gaming.”

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.