House gaming committee wants in-depth revenue numbers from Seminoles

in Uncategorized by

With the deadline a little over two years away on a key provision of the state’s multimillion-dollar gambling compact, some lawmakers would like to see firm casino revenue numbers from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

Members of the House Select Committee on Gaming asked the tribe’s attorney on Monday if the annual fiscal data, of which only select numbers are released to the public, could be made available before a decision is needed to renew, renegotiate or abandon the Seminole’s exclusive rights on banked card games.

“I’m not questioning the veracity of it, we know it’s somewhere around $2 billion dollars, but once we know we can start planning,” said Rep. Jim Waldman.

Barry Richard, an attorney for the tribe, said he would make the request but couldn’t guarantee the numbers would be made available.

“The confidential provision exists because the fact that the tribe, as anybody in any business has trade secrets,” Richard said.

The tribe does submit revenue and expenditure audits to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, but the numbers remain confidential outside the executive branch.

With the Senate and House moving forward with a study of the state’s gambling industry, including the potential impact of allowing mega-casinos to open in South Florida, no action is expected from the Legislature on gambling until 2014, other than a possible moratorium on Internet cafes.

The compact was signed in 2010 and is good through July 31, 2030. It includes a provision that the Seminoles have exclusive rights on banked card games – such as baccarat and blackjack – at five locations, with that provision expiring July 31, 2015.

In return, the Seminoles pay the state a minimum of $233 million a year out of the revenue.

Exceptions to the exclusivity include poker licensed card rooms and slot machines at existing pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

The state has generated $726 million through the compact with the tribe, which has seen its employment in Florida grow 52 percent since 2008 in large part because of expansion of card games, Richard said.

Michelle Morton, the committee’s acting staff director, said the Legislature’s options with the Seminoles on the provision will be to renegotiate the deal, simply renew the provision, expand the card game option to others or take no action.

If lawmakers decide not to take any action, the Seminoles would have 90 days to halt its banked card operations, Morton said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.