Time is ticking
House and Senate leaders are continuing efforts to iron out a gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Despite time ticking away on the 2020 legislative session, Senate President Bill Galvano and Gov. Ron DeSantis are both confident that an agreement can be reached before it ends.
For the past number of weeks, leading lawmakers in the Senate and House have been trying to compose an agreement that would be acceptable for both the state and the tribe.
Senate President Bill Galvano and Gov. Ron DeSantis are both confident that a deal can be agreed
If this gambling compact is successfully adopted, it could see the state receive around $700m each year from the tribe’s gambling activities. For the past while, the tribe has been hesitant to negotiate such a compact due to a number of issues.
However, it now appears that progress is being made on the issue. Galvano made a statement on the issue, stating: “We have made progress internally, and we are now engaged in negotiations with the tribe.”
Gov. DeSantis is also confident about Galvano’s ability to get a deal done. However, he also maintained that the negotiations would not be rushed.
DeSantis said: “I’d rather have a good deal and do it a few days later, or even you can even bring people back potentially, than try to force things under an artificial timeline.”
There were even indications that there could be a special legislative session to thrash out the issue. Politicians close to the negotiations have been keeping most of the details about a new gambling compact under wraps.
Big benefits for the Seminole Tribe
However, sources say that the state would give the Seminole Tribe the ability to now offer roulette and craps as part of its casino offering, something that previously was not the case. It already was offering slot machines and banked card games like blackjack.
The first year of a gambling compact would see the tribe make a $500m payment to the state. This would then rise to an annual sum of $700m.
Sticking points identified
The tribe is reportedly pushing for the allowance of online casinos. This would be a significant move to expand gambling in the state, potentially being a sticking point for politicians.
The state also plans to continue allowing pari-mutuels to be able to allow designated player card games. This is something that the tribe is not in favor of. There has been a long-running legal dispute on this issue between the tribe and the state.
The Seminole Tribe claims that designated card games are covered under their exclusivity clause from a gaming compact in 2010, with a federal judge agreeing that this is the case. However, this gambling compact reached expiration in 2015. There was a settlement deal that saw the tribe still paying a $400m sum to the state annually. However, these payments were stopped by the tribe in May 2019 after negotiations broke down.
If a deal cannot be struck, the state may try to expand gambling in another way, such as legalizing sports betting for non-tribal operators. However, such a move would have to be approved by the public through a vote, following the passage of a constitutional amendment in 2018.
Busy period for the legislature
With the budget negotiations for 2020/2021 ongoing, potential revenue from a gambling compact would be a key part of such plans. The outbreak of the coronavirus is also another major issue that the state has to consider with its budget plans. To date, there are three confirmed cases in Florida.
Therefore, the lucrative revenue that a gambling compact will bring in may be able to help even out potential costs arising from the virus outbreak. With the legislative session set to come to a close on March 13, politicians will be working overtime in order to try and reach a deal.
There are signs that the legislative session could be extended due to delays regarding the budget. House Speaker Jose Oliva said that this is “inevitable.”