Poarch Band of Creek Indians sends letter to Gov. Scott seeking separate gambling compact with state

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Add a new fold into Florida’s growing (or, depending on your orientation on all of this, unraveling) gaming universe: the Poarch Band of Creek Indians has alerted Gov. Rick Scott of their interest to negotiate a gambling compact in the state. 

To put this request in context, here’s a gaming facts refresher for the three or so politicos not already involved in one of the many different sides to this fascinating issue: 

The Seminole Compact’s exclusive agreement with the Florida, under which they operate slot machines and casino card games in different areas of the state, will expire in July, 2015. 

According to federal law, some degree of gaming exclusivity is required in order for states to arrange for revenue sharing with a tribe. Under Florida’s current contract, the state has already brought in $1 billion in revenues shared by the Seminole Tribe since the compact went into effect in January 2008. 

The impending expiration of the Seminole Compact has private, non-tribe casinos lining up for a chance to break into Florida’s lucrative gaming market. Among them, multi-billion dollar cross-national corporations with strong lobby forces promoting the construction of one of the world’s largest casino resorts on Miami. 

Of course, it goes without saying that the Seminole Tribe seeks to keep its hold on real gambling in Florida, and has a roster of expert lobbyists to prove it. 

So, who are the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, and to put it bluntly, what gives them the sense that they can compete in this high stakes gaming power struggle? 

The Poarch Band is a federally-recognized Indian tribe. They are descendants of a segment of the original Creek Nation, which once covered all of Alabama and Georgia, and who also hold a land trust in Escambia County, Florida. This trust meets the definition of “Indian lands” under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and is the sole location where the Poarch Band intends to conduct Class III gaming activities under a compact with the state. 

For the uninitiated, Class III gaming is the broadest category of gambling activities — not just bingo or social gaming for minimal prizes. Class III includes slot machines, blackjack, craps, and so on. 

The Poarch Band operates multiple casinos in Alabama, so they aren’t naive to the process they will face in Florida, or to the industry. But in a state where the Seminole Tribe has objected to things as inane as pay-at-the pump Florida Lotto tickets, it isn’t a shot in the dark to say the Poarch Band will face major opposition. 

In the tribe’s letter to Gov. Scott, dated March 24, 2014, tribal chairman Buford L. Rolin requests a meting with a designated negotiations team as soon as possible. 

It is unclear whether the Governor will oblige. 

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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.