The gambling agreement between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Governor Rick Scott that was signed on Monday will face changes over the coming months, and while praised by both sides, its approval is far from a sure bet.
In exchange for a guarantee to limit the tribe’s competition within the state, the new deal guarantees $3 billion over three years for Florida. The deal would also allow expanded gambling options in the southern portion of the state. Under the terms of the agreement, the tribe would be allowed to continue to offer card games such as blackjack in their facilities across the Florida. That includes the Seminole Hard Rock Casino’s Hollywood and Tampa locations. In addition, the tribe would be able to operate table games such as craps and roulette at its seven Florida locations. If the agreement passes as is, it ensures that blackjack is allowed at pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward County and that a destination casino resort isn’t built in the state.
Not easily navigated through the Florida legislature, the subject of gambling is viewed through a wide lens by the House’s 120 members and 40 senators. The views range from those who want more gambling in the state to those who don’t want any gambling in Florida. Some horse breeders are concerned that allowing tracks to have blackjack and slot machines will put an end to live racing, while some areas of the state want their horse and dog tracks to have slot machines and jai-alai frontons, but won’t be permitted to under the agreement.
Of the six counties where voters approved dog and horse tracks and jai-alai frontons having slot machines, the compact only allow one, Palm Beach County, to have slot machines. Lawmakers from the other five counties, Lee, Brevard, Gadsden, Washington and Hamilton will feel the pressure to ensure that the counties they represent aren’t left out of the deal.
A huge concern in Ocala is a compact provision that allows lawmakers the option of allowing current holders of pari-mutuel license’s stop live events while continuing to operate their slot machines or poker rooms, where permitted by law. More than 72,000 jobs are generated by the horse industry, and according the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, has a $6.5 billion economic impact on Florida.
The 60-day legislative session that begins on January 12 will be followed closely by the Seminole Tribe. The tribe fully expects lawmakers to seek changes to the deal.