Florida lawmakers are looking to expand gaming opportunities in the state, but they will have to carefully work with the Seminole Tribe in order to advance any potential gambling expansions. Bingo, “designated player” card games, and sports betting are all topics of discussion between the state and the Seminoles. The future Senate president attempts to hammer out a deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The goal is to have the gambling deal worked out by Friday. The progress made since last August, when things were compared to a battleground, has been nothing short of remarkable.
The tribe and state are once again at the bargaining table trying to finalize a compact, or revenue-sharing agreement, in which the tribe would pay Florida in exchange for the exclusive rights to offer certain types of gaming.
At the heart of this deal lies designated player games. These games are offered at several of Florida’s pari-mutuel card rooms. The problem is that while the card games are included under the tribe’s exclusive rights to offer banked card games, the state has not been enforcing that part of the compact. A federal judge as well as the Seminole Indians all maintain that the state is violating the 2010 agreement.
Since 2010, the Seminoles have paid around $350 million a year to Florida as a result of the agreement they signed with former Governor Rick Scott. The agreement expires at the end of May, and the Senate did not include expected revenue from the Seminoles in next year’s budget, so it will be interesting to see what happens.
Despite having $350 million a year on the hook, Florida legislators have had some difficulty updating the agreement with the tribe. One insider says that as part of the new deal being offered, Florida lawmakers are promising to impose greater restriction on the designated player games being offered by non-tribal operators.
As part of this deal, the Seminoles would act as a hub for sports betting; they would get a percentage of the bets that are made outside of their operations, while simultaneously operating sportsbooks at their own casinos.
The pari-mutuel betting parlors are not going to be satisfied going without designated player games, which can involve bets of $50,000 on one hand. One perk that will be offered to the pari-mutuel betting parlors by the state is to be able to offer sports betting at jai-alai frontons, dog tracks and horse tracks, along with the professional sports arenas.
A lawyer for several of the pari-mutuels, John Lockwood, talked about the potential deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe:
“The sweeteners won’t offset the loss in revenue if designated player games are outlawed. If these tweaks are anything like the tweaks they’ve proposed in the past, nobody will even offer the games.”
In a telephone interview with the Miami Herald, the senator in charge of negotiating a deal with the tribe, Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), said there have been no agreements reached so far:
“Everything you’re talking about is clearly part of what would be being negotiated, but there are not any conclusions on those subjects…In other words, it has to be totally concluded before there would be any conclusion [on any specific issue]. So it would not be accurate to pick out any detail and say, ‘Ok, this thing has absolutely been agreed upon.’’
Sources say that the discussions talk about increasing the current payments made by the state to the tribe up to $500 million a year. Another issue being raised is the possibility of adding roulette and craps and online betting to what the tribe can offer. This issue is a no-go, however, after sitting Governor Ron DeSantis objected.
It’s exciting to see Florida moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, their efforts to expand gaming options within the state is more complicated due to the current compact with the Seminole Tribe. However, if Florida can figure this out and implement an expansion that includes sports betting then it could become a template for states like California to try and emulate. Nevertheless, Friday might be an ambitious and unattainable timeframe to get an agreement done.
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