The Seminole tribe of Florida has made clear its objections to two pending gambling bills in the state, saying that they fear that SB 8 and PCB TGC 17-01 were in possible violation of US federal laws. SB 8 was approved by a Florida Senate committee last week, while a House subcommittee gave the green light to TGC 17-01. But while both pending bills incorporate the new gaming compact signed between the tribe and Governor Rick Scott in 2015, the Seminoles said that a letter sent to them last year from the Federal Office of the Interior stated, among other things, that the proposals made to them in the gaming compact more than likely violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), would not allow them to back either.
The 112 page long SB 8 was approved last week, and covers everything from Daily Fantasy Sports to gas pump lottery sales in Florida. Besides approving the $3 million compact reached between the Seminoles and Governor Scott, SB 8 also reduces slots tax from 35% to 25%. Slots and card rooms will be able to operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week, while also introducing “point of sale” lottery terminals.
PCB TGC 17-01, on the other hand, essentially freezes the state’s entire gambling market in its present form.
The House proposal is opposite to the Senate plan, which would allow slot games in eight counties that have been approved by voters, and would allow “designated player” games.
What the bills have in common, however, is that they both approve the compact signed between the tribe and the governor, whereby the tribe retains its exclusive rights to offer blackjack and other house banked games at their six Seminole Florida casinos. In exchange, the tribe will pay the Florida administration the sum of $3 billion over the course of 7 years.
After the approval of both bills by the House and Senate, the tribe continued its traditional stand-off against new gambling legislation, penning a letter to lawmakers this week, explaining why they could support neither PCB TGC 1701 nor SB 8. Seminole Tribal Council chairman Marcelius Osceola explained in the letter that backing the bills would not be an economically feasible move for the tribe. According to the tribe, they received a letter from the federal Office of the Interior, six months after signing the compact with Governor Scott, stating that the proposals made to the tribe violated federal laws. Under these laws, states may not charge tribes more than what it would cost the state to regulate gaming activity unless a ‘meaningful concession’ is offered to the tribe. The Seminoles note that both bills require that they pay higher payments, but at the same time “add numerous additional exceptions to the Tribe’s exclusivity.”
The tribe also said that it was willing to meet with legislators to try and reach a compromise.