Seminole Tribe money could be jeopardized if state expands gambling

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It is hard to refuse more than $200 million a year, but if the Florida Legislature expands gambling in the state, it might just come to that.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is saying that if their agreement with the state ends, Florida could lose nearly $1 billion in revenue over five years, reports James Rosica in the Tampa Tribune.  The Tribe operates several gambling facilities in the state, including Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

The Seminole Compact protects the Tribe’s exclusive rights to gambling beyond Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. It they lose exclusivity by expanded gambling, the Tribe does not have to pay the millions to state and local governments.

In 2013-2014, that amount estimated to be around $233 million.

The Tribe is working extremely hard to keep the Compact alive, as well as their exclusive hold on gambling. In September, they gave $500,000 to Gov. Rick Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” re-election PAC.

“The Seminole Tribe worked for two decades to secure a gaming compact with the state of Florida that provided a more stable future for the Tribe and its members and allowed for significant sharing of gaming revenue with the state,” tribal representative Gary Bitner told the Tribune. “The tribe wants to maintain that steady, stable course through 2015 and beyond.”

Gambling concerns also have a lot at stake, and are willing to pay, with political contributions totaling more than $2.8 million in the 2012 election cycle, according to estimates by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Broward County’s Mardi Gras Casino owners Hartman and Tyner Inc. gave $67,400.

A draft report by New Jersey-based consultants at the Spectrum Gaming Group says Florida will see only minimal economic growth from expanded gambling. That glum projection forces lawmakers to think carefully before suggesting adding any new casino-style resorts in Florida.

Monday, the Senate Gaming committee will consider the report draft, and a Tampa-area public workshop will be Oct. 30 at 3 p.m. in the George Jenkins High School auditorium in Lakeland. The final version of the Spectrum report will go to the Legislature Nov. 1, according to the Tribune.

Among the other obstacles to gambling expansion is the lack of consistent state law on gaming. This disparity leads to confrontations and lawsuits to help clarify the rules.

“The competition among gaming entities, historically, has risen to the level of legal challenges and regulatory challenges, and that’s something we also have to be mindful of as we navigate this issue,” said State Sen. Bill Galvano, who sits on the gaming committee. He also worked on the Seminole Compact during his time in the House.

“I don’t see that there’s a quick and easy resolution,” Galvano told reporters.

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.