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The Ongoing Negotiations Regarding the Seminole Gaming Compact Issue in Florida

On May 1st, 2009, the Florida Legislature extended its yearly session to finish bills on Thoroughbred horse racing, pari-mutuel facilities and tribal gaming. Over the next few weeks, the leaders of both the House and Senate will continue talks on their gaming bills on the important issue of whether the Seminoles of Florida should be allowed to continue offering card games like baccarat and blackjack at its gaming facilities.

Both legislative groups are also evaluating general gambling bills, with provisions stating that they would only be enforced only if the legislature allows a Seminole gaming bill. A lobbyist of the Gulfstream Park and its parent organization, Marc Dunbar, stated that he is hopeful that both Houses will recognize the importance of a healthy Thoroughbred industry in the state. Dunbar defer from speculating on whether the Florida legislators would pass a bill on Seminole gambling and general gambling bill.

Both the Senate and House's gaming proposal would slash the state tax rate from fifty percent to thirty-five percent on revenue from Class III slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Gulfstream Park is one of the three pari-mutuels in Broward County that have a casino. Calder Race Course, which is located in Miami-Dade County, plans to construct a casino facility that would open in January 2010.

Those are the only two counties in the state in which Thoroughbred racing and Harness and Greyhound racing tracks and jai-alai frontons are allowed to have casinos and slot machines. The Seminole tribe started offering baccarat and blackjack in three of its casinos last year. They are the only casinos in Florida that are offering those games even though the state Supreme Court decided that they are not allowed in the state last July 2008.

The court cancelled a 2007 gaming compact negotiated by Governor Charlie Crist because he did not ask the legislator's permission. As part of the gaming compact, the Seminole tribe agreed to make the initial payments from gaming revenue to Florida. The payments begin at $100 million last year, with an agreement for increases. The ongoing talks on how to modify the gaming compacts center on the goal of Senate leaders to keep Seminole gambling revenue for Florida and the opposition of House officials to gaming expansion.

A House gaming compact would require the Seminole tribe to stop their baccarat and blackjack games immediately. But in a recent compromise, the House stated it would permit the tribe to continue offering the games to its casinos in Hollywood, a city in the County of Broward and in Coconut Creek. Those would be the only two of the tribe's seven casino facilities where the House would allow casino table games. It would require the Seminole tribe to stop offering the games from their casino facilities in Tampa and Immokalee.

The House gaming proposal does not feature different provisions in a Seminole gaming compact the Senate approved in late April. The Senate would allow the tribe to offer blackjack and baccarat as well as craps and roulette at all of their casino facilities.

As an exchange, the Senate would permit the pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward to offer baccarat and blackjack. The Senate would also allow the Tampa Bay Downs and other pari-mutuels located outside the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward to offer Class III slot machines.


05/17/2009 20:30 PM
Richard Kennedy