Florida House Democrats are prepared to block a renewed Compact with the Seminole Tribe if the deal does not contain more gaming for South Florida pari-mutuels.
Without the support of the Democratic caucus — 44 votes — ratifying the contract will be difficult, reports Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida.
“The fate of the compact is in serious jeopardy if we do not have some bipartisan support,” said House Select Committee on Gaming Chair Rob Schenck. “It’s a basic principle of math.”
Historically, the House resisted gambling expansion, and now the opposition includes about a dozen conservative Republicans, poised to vote down any gambling-related legislation. Adding the two factions — Democrats and anti-gambling Republicans – a bipartisan coalition of 61 votes needed for ratification will be nearly impossible.
In 2010, the Legislature twice rejected former Gov. Charlie Crist’s agreement with the Tribe, before finally ratifying a 20-year gambling compact, with some provisions sunsetting on Aug. 1, 2015.
The Seminole Compact passed the House 74-39, with only six Democrats — all from Palm Beach County — voting against it because the deal failed to cover allowing the Palm Beach Kennel Club to operate slot machines.
“(Gov. Rick) Scott needs to understand that, unless he wants a Charlie Crist moment from 2009, he better talk to us and be sure that we are prepared to ratify the compact,” Rep. Jim Waldman, the ranking Democrat on the Gaming Committee, told the News Service.
Under the current agreement, the Tribe can reduce, or even stop, payments if the state allows slot machines beyond Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, Hialeah Race Track, or if South Florida pari-mutuels get banked card games.
Any deal hinges on allowing the Tribe exclusive rights to provide certain games, even in limited geographic areas, and for them to continue paying the state.
Federal law mandates that any deal of revenue sharing with the state must include giving something of value for the tribe. The federal government also has the right to dismiss any agreement between Florida and the Seminoles.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, Kam writes, continues to assert his chamber will not accept any legislation until there is a arrangement between Scott and the Tribe.
The Democratic caucus seeks more gaming for “racinos” in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, pari-mutuels with poker rooms and slot machines, which are in direct competition with the Hollywood Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. They also want to allow slots and card games in Palm Beach County.
The new gambling proposal from the House does provide the addition of slots for the Palm Beach Kennel Club.
Both Republican and Democratic Legislative leaders say they do not have any idea what kind of deal Scott working on with the tribe.