Florida Lawmakers Reveal Plans for Special Legislative Session to Consider Gaming Compact

  • The session begins May 17 and will consider the proposed 30-year deal with the Seminole Tribe
  • The Senate will discuss the proposal on May 18 and the House on May 19
  • If the legislature approves the compact, it will then need US Department of the Interior approval
  • A recent poll showed that 76% of Floridians surveyed want a public vote on the compact
Florida stage flag outside of the Capitol
Florida lawmakers now know specific details about the special legislative session that starts May 17 to discuss the proposed gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A plan in place

Key Florida lawmakers have revealed details about the special legislative session during which they will be discussing the gaming compact that Governor Ron DeSantis has agreed upon with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls issued a joint formal proclamation on Wednesday that officially brings lawmakers back to Tallahassee on May 17.

retail and online sports betting would become legal and would be under the control of the tribe

Governor DeSantis announced the proposed 30-year gambling compact on April 23 following extensive negotiations. As part of the compact, retail and online sports betting would become legal and would be under the control of the tribe.

Both the Senate and House have issued schedules for the special session. The Senate Appropriations Committee is to meet on May 17 to discuss the proposal. The measure will then go to the Senate floor on May 18.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls plans to appoint at least one select committee to consider the compact. This committee or committees will have May 17 and May 18 to discuss the proposal. The compact will then enter the House floor on May 19. Due to the complex nature of the agreement and the significant revenues involved, the House is planning to provide some online courses to lawmakers next week to further explain the issues that are up for discussion.

Getting legislation over the line

Despite the Florida governor and the tribe coming to an agreement, the state legislature still has to approve the compact. The state’s normal 60-day legislative session came to an end on April 30, so there was not enough time to fully consider the matter, hence the need for a special session. If the legislature gives its approval, the US Department of the Interior will then have to give the compact the green light.

Another gambling-related matter that will be up for discussion during the special legislative session will be the possibility of removing restrictions on pari-mutuel facilities that operate card rooms. Lawmakers will also consider the creation of the Florida Gaming Control Commission. These measures are separate from the gaming compact.

Because of easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the state, lawmakers will not have to adhere to social distancing, testing, or mask-wearing protocols during the special session.

The possibilities of the compact

As part of the proposed compact, the state would get a total of at least $2.5bn from the Seminole Tribe during the first five years. In addition to controlling the sports betting market, the tribe would also be able to expand its existing gambling facilities. It could start offering roulette and craps on top of its current offering of slot machines and certain casino table games. 

It’s in favor of both parties because this is a long-lasting team.”

After the announcement of the proposed compact, Seminole Tribe of Florida Tribal Council Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. spoke about how it is a good deal for both sides, saying: “It’s in favor of both parties because this is a long-lasting team.”

Some people seeking a public vote

The Florida public seemingly wants to have a say on the gaming compact. A new poll that McLaughlin & Associates conducted for the No Casinos anti-expansion group in Florida showed that 76% of the people surveyed think that the public should get a vote on the gaming compact.

The No Casinos group believes that a public vote is legally necessary because of Amendment 3, which got voter approval in 2018. This amendment states that any form of gambling expansion requires a statewide referendum before approval.

Those in the opposite corner say that Amendment 3 does not cover gambling expansion that is part of a tribal gaming compact. As the online sports betting servers will be in tribal casinos that are on tribal land, they believe that a statewide vote on the matter is not legally necessary.    

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