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Florida Legislature Continues to Work on New Tribal Gaming Compact

Lawmakers in the state of Florida have been in constant discussions with the Seminole Tribe in order to come to an agreement regarding a new gaming compact. The new deal could potentially bring $700 million to the state each year. Yet, the legislative session is winding down, and there may not be enough time to cut a new deal.

Rejected a Former Deal

In Florida, the Seminole Tribe and lawmakers have been unable to reach a consensus thus far. Just recently, Governor Ron DeSantis rejected a deal that was brought forth last spring that could have ended the discussions. The state needs to see the Seminoles resume their annual payments in order to have funding.

For weeks now, the Senate and House have been holding talks focusing on the new gambling deal with the tribe. Legislators have indicated that not much progress had been made in the past until this past week. Reportedly, a new deal has progressed, and negotiations are now taking place with tribal leaders.

Deal Details

When the tribe decided to stop payments to the state, around $350 million was lost in annual contributions. The original compact from 2010 saw the tribe agreed to make annual payments after being given exclusive rights to offer blackjack games at their casinos.

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In 2015, the tribe threatened to stop contributing revenues, arguing the state had breached their compact by allowing pari-mutuels to offer designated player card games. The tribe stated the games were close to identical with the card games they had exclusive right to. A judge agreed with the tribe.

So now, lawmakers must appease the tribe with the new compact along with the pari-mutuels. Lawmakers are reportedly considering allowing the tribe to add more table games to their venues including craps and roulette. They would also be given exclusive rights to online sports betting.

In exchange for the new gaming options, the tribe would be expected to increase their payment to the state to $500 million within the first year. This amount would then increase again to as much as $700 million in the years following.

However, on top of allowing the tribes new gaming options, they will continue to allow the pari-mutuels to offer the designated player card games. This seems to be the stumbling block that the state is having to deal with. The tribe might not be willing to concede on this point.

At the same time, the state also has to worry about how they would expand gambling in the state. Promising the tribe new gaming options is not essentially feasible due to how an expansion must legally take place. A constitutional amendment from 2018 saw state voters gain the exclusive right to rule on gambling related matters.

So, let’s say the tribe agrees to a new compact that allows expanded gaming. Nothing can legally take place until the voters have their say so. And what happens if the voters decide that the tribes don’t need to offer new table games? The state would be back at square one, having to start over with a new gaming compact.

For now, it is a positive that the tribe and the state have reached the negotiation stages. However, we may still be a long way away from any actual changes if the two cannot come to some point of agreement. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming weeks.

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