Earlier this year, before the start of the 2015 regular Legislative Session, House Speaker Steve Crissafulli articulated a very clear and prescient position on the state’s approach toward gambling. Notably, he asked, “What do we get from the Seminole Gaming Compact and do we want to offer parity to pari-mutuels?’
As a seventh-generation Floridian, Crisafulli asked what the Legislature would do to support Florida’s generational businesses. Why would the Legislature continue to enrich and enhance the opportunity of the Seminole Tribe over the interests of multigenerational family businesses that have operated in Florida for decades? Businesses that strongly support their local communities, give generously to local charities, and employ thousands of Floridians.
The release of the governor’s compact agreement with the Seminole Tribe reminded me of those issues this week, as legislators and pari-mutuel interests outside of South Florida cried foul over being excluded and even punished in the governor’s proposal.
The governor managed to craft an agreement that intensified the gaming debate and clearly defined winners and losers. Five of the six counties that voted to authorize slot machines have been denied the opportunity to operate. The facilities that operated designated players games which had clearly been authorized by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation will only be permitted to operate watered-down games that aren’t economically viable.
The governor’s compact proposal will serve as the largest expansion of gambling in Florida’s history. New slot machines in Palm Beach County, a stand-alone casino in Miami-Dade county, and new Class III casino games for the Seminoles including craps and roulette.
Whether the Legislature finds that palatable remains to be seen. But what is clear, proposing a massive gambling expansion at the expense and punishment of family-owned business in the remaining 64 counties is unfair and unjust. After years of debate and posturing the governor’s compact found a way to ensure that if you’re a pari-mutuel outside of South Florida your outlook today is actually worse than it was yesterday.
I can’t help but ask the question, why does the compact treat pari-mutuels outside of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties so poorly?