Nearly 20,000 temporary and permanent jobs could be at stake in Florida if the Legislature can’t come to terms with passing a gambling bill. Governor Rick Scott told reporters following a Cabinet meeting today that the Seminole Tribe would lay off 3,700 workers at its casinos statewide if lawmakers refuse to act. The current legislative session ends next Friday and today the Senate Appropriations Committee indefinitely postponed a hearing on a bill that would allow a new gaming compact with the tribe, giving Florida a guaranteed $3 billion in revenues over the first seven years of the twenty year agreement.
If the gaming compact hammered out by Scott and a handful of lawmakers with the Seminoles, about three months after 2010’s five year compact expired, is somehow sent to the governor’s desk for his signature, the Seminoles say they plan to invest another $1.8 billion in one of their Hard Rock Hotel & Casino properties in the Southern part of the state including a 36 story hotel shaped like a giant guitar. Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming has said the development would create nearly 20,000 jobs. Without the compact, and depending upon court battles still in play, none of those jobs would be created and nearly 4,000 Floridians would become unemployed.
The first and most recent compact, which expired in July with a 90 day grace period, saw the tribe continue to hand over about $100 million dollars to the state every month. Those payments would also stop.
A host of collateral issues, deemed necessary to get the bill passed are also blamed for its potential demise. Racetracks would potentially not have to offer live racing to profit from slots and card games, up to five new slot casinos would be created in counties where voters have already approved them via referendums along with one unspecified location in Miami-Dade, two counties would be able to offer house-banked blackjack games, others would be able to follow the California model of player/dealer games like baccarat, Pai Gow poker, and blackjack, and the Seminoles would be able to expand blackjack to all of their casinos in the state and begin offering other tables games such as roulette and craps – those games would be theirs to offer exclusively for seven years.
A statement was expected from the Seminoles by this evening but by press time nothing had come forth.
There is a slim possibility the legislation could be seen again Thursday if the Appropriations Committee schedules a final meeting of the session, but lawmakers close to the issue expressed doubts that would happen. Some were also confident the bill would pass if it makes it to the Senate floor. Senator Rob Bradley, who along with Representative Jose Felix Diaz helped negotiate the compact told the Tampa Tribune, “I think it’s fair to say the bill is on life support,” the senator said, “I would be very surprised if there is any further consideration this session.”