Efforts to convince Florida lawmakers the benefits of the compact negotiated by Governor Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe outweigh the downsides were in full swing this weekend as tribal leaders deployed dozens of employees of the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa to Tallahassee in an attempt to get the deal ratified by the Legislature.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, in exchange for exclusive rights to expand table game offerings such as craps and roulette at tribal casinos over the next seven years the tribe, would pay the state a total of $3 billion, tripling the current payments. The number of Seminole casinos offering blackjack would also increase from five to seven. Through the compact, the tribe also promises to preserve existing positions in addition to creating 4,800 new jobs. Baccarat and blackjack have been played on tribal casino floors in Florida, including Seminole Hard Rock, since former Governor Charlie Crist signed the last compact in 2007.

However, if the Legislature rejects the compact, the tribe said jobs could be threatened at tribal casinos like the Hard Rock, by increasing competition from pari-mutuels. A dealer at the Hard Rock since 2008, Caroline Higginbotham said, “If this compact doesn’t go through, we can’t go down the street and do this someplace else; we have to actually leave the state, which we don’t want to do because we’re happy where we’re at and we want to keep our jobs,” according to Bay News 9.

While job creation efforts have been largely supported by the Legislature, many of the Governor’s fellow republicans are questioning its impact on the state’s pari-mutuel industry as well as Scott’s plan to use much of the revenue from the compact to pay for his controversial $1 billion corporate tax cut package. Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) stated during a recent hearing, “What could happen here, conceivably, if we pass this compact, is we would generate this revenue, but then this revenue could conceivably then immediately go out in a tax cut for, you know, C corporations.”

Another concern and one that has received some of the harshest criticism, is the compacts centering on “decoupling.” Decoupling would remove a requirement that live racing, or jai alai games, must be offered by tracks or risk losing more lucrative operations such as slot machines or poker rooms, depending on the county. Opponents say it would be the death of the horse and dog racing industries in Florida. Social conservatives are also concerned the addition of Las Vegas-style games could lead to problem gambling, which would hurt the state’s family-friendly image.

Lawmakers will be in session until March 11 and next week legislation is expected to be rolled out by the Senate’s Republican leaders to approve the compact. However, anticipating difficulty passing the bill, they are already downplaying expectations.

3 Responses

  1. Steven Norton

    Today’s article by Kim Morrison seems to place the blame, for possible decoupling of live racing and Jai-Alai performances, on the Governor’s proposed new Seminole compact. My reading of the Legislature, is that the issues surrounding pari-mutual’s are likely to be in separate bills. And expanding the Seminole table games, to add Craps and Roulette, will have a minimal impact on audiences at race tracks and frontons. Kim refers to opponents concerns that Tribal gaming expansion might be the death of horse and dog racing. These pari-mutual supporters only need to take a close look at current betting on live races to realize the Greyhound racing is already dead, like it is in Iowa, Alabama and Massachusetts. A trip to a Florida dog track today, will likely find more bettors in the poker room or OTB parlor, than watching the live events. And if decoupling is allowed, there is no reason to reduce the tax on slot machines, assuming dog tracks are allowed to keep some of their machines.
    Horse racing still has a meaningful audience in Florida, and like the Seminole Casinos, are an important part of Florida’s tourism amenities. So keep horse racing, decouple the dogs while raising the slot tax, and/or reduce the number of machines. And the State should study Jai-Alai to see if there is still an audience for live events, before including them with the Greyhounds.

    Reply
    • Lars Jones
      Lars Jones

      Thanks for your analysis and perspective Steve, always a pleasure to read your input. Attendance at the drastically re-sized fronton at The Casino @ Dania should be a good indicator of whether Jai Alai still enjoys a good following in the state. It would be a shame to see such a thrilling sport die along with the dog tracks, if as you observe, they will not likely see a resurgence.

      Reply
    • Michael

      I have been keeping up to date on the Seminole Compact from day one. Now that the second leg of the negotiations is on the table I would like to address an issue never discussed since the bill was signed to legalize Class III casino games. When the gaming bill was being pitched to the public for voters’ approval they were told that it was good for the locals for employment. All the locals have acquired are the low paying positions and for the most part the better paying position have been pitched to other casino markets (Las Vegas, Atlantic City) where they acquire employees. They hurt local business by not utilizing the local casino dealer schools by giving away free classes for the locals where most fail the audition. As a small business owner this is hurts us financially and degrades our Brand credibility locally.

      If you go to the Seminole website it states that you must have 2 years experience to work in the casino as a casino dealer. If gaming expanded only a couple of years ago then there are only a number of limited experienced dealers that may have worked on the gaming boats that used to dominate the industry here. To acquire experienced dealers you must either hire outside of the state or get potential applicants from the local schools where the training has been properly administered.

      Now that the Seminoles are looking to get Dice and Roulette as a new agreement emerges they are stating that you must have 5 years experience in the industry to be hired for those games. NOW where do you think those applicants are coming from? Outside markets of course. The practice of not utilizing the local schools which actually excels in a higher level of training verses a free school hurts the locals who in fact made the gaming happen in the first place. The locals need to have the first shot at employment before an outside applicant. The claim that the expansion will be good for jobs in reality are for positions where the locals can actually get the same dollar from working at a fast food establishment.

      The State wants to collect on a big scale of 3 billion dollars from the Seminoles and has collected 1 billion so far but do not want to help the locals by training for gaming positions on a big scale. What I mean by big scale is having the local schools train the unemployed thru unemployment funding, thru local government (State and County) assistance. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs already understands the need and approves the funding for the GI Bill.

      In other markets the casinos are required to hire 50% of new casino gaming employees from the local schools. Requirements too are that you cannot work in a casino unless you prove you went to one of the local schools for training. This ensures local business growth which we do not have here in Florida at the present time. Small businesses are the driving force of the USA. Florida does not put their best foot forward when negotiating the Compact. The Compact is not only for the Seminoles but also the people of Florida.

      The questions should be put to Gov. Rick Scott, Jim Allen and other high level negotiators in the Compact deal, “What are we really doing for the unemployed locals and what can we do to help local businesses like the casino dealer schools?”

      Sincerely,

      Michael LaFroscia

      Casino Career Institute
      918 E.Cypress Creek Rd.
      Ft Lauderdale, Fl. 33334
      561-596-2188

      http://www.FloridaCasinoCareers.com
      WE ARE FLORIDA’S OLDEST & LARGEST
      SCHOOL FOR FULL CASINO TRAINING

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.