Today, House Speaker Will Weatherford said a statewide gambling overhaul won’t move forward this year unless it provides for a ballot question on future expansion and requires a new revenue-sharing deal with the Seminole Tribe, according to James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune.
“This is an opportunity for us, like grownups, to have a mature conversation about what gaming should look like in Florida,” Weatherford told Rosica. “But I’m unwilling to have that conversation if we can’t have a compact that’s been negotiated.
In other words, if we had ham, we could have ham & eggs, if we had eggs.
The Seminole Tribe is diametrically opposed to a gambling overhaul because it does not want to see two new destination resort casinos built in South Florida. And now Weatherford has publicly said that the legislation needed to permit development of these casinos would require a new compact with one of the two major shareholders — Walt Disney Co. being the other — opposed to that very concept.
Why wouldn’t the Seminole Tribe just run out the clock on this legislative session by stalling on a new compact, then just hold out for Sen. Andy Gardiner — a devout opponent to gambling, not just expanded gambling — to become Senate President?
As Rosica explains, The Seminole Compact includes a provision allowing blackjack and other card games at locations including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. The card game provision expires in mid-2015 unless it’s renewed
The deal guarantees the state a minimum $1 billion from the tribe’s gambling income over five years. But under certain scenarios, if the tribe loses its exclusive rights to offer Las Vegas-style games through expanded gambling, it can stop paying.
The Seminole Tribe may just want to be thrown into that briar patch.