Florida’s Seminole Tribe agreed to a 20-year gaming compact in 2010 which was renegotiated by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015. That new agreement went nowhere as the state legislature failed to bring the new bill up for a vote before the legislative session ended in 2015. Negotiations dragged on throughout 2016 and was basically put on hold till after the election. Florida now has a new senate president, Joe Negron, who is determined to get the Seminole gaming compact ratified.
Shortly after Negron was sworn in as Florida’s new senate president, speaking with reporters, he said that he was optimistic that the House of Representatives would work with his colleagues in the Senate on ratifying a new gaming compact with the Seminoles, one that is “hopefully long term enough so that the state has predictability in revenue and that’s also fair to pari-mutuels.”
The 20-year gaming compact that the Seminoles had agreed to in 2010 covering their seven casinos, featured an exclusivity clause over house-banked table games. The exclusivity clause was scheduled to last for five years, but several years after the initial agreement, the state reneged and authorized pari-mutuel operators to offer ‘designated player’ card games. The ‘designated player’ was just a cover name for a house-banked table game and the Seminoles sued Florida for breach of contract.
Gov. Scott got involved in 2015 and brokered an agreement with the on a new gaming compact. But as legislators are prone to do, the bill was stuffed with add-ons including authorization of slots operations in five additional counties. As a consequence, the legislature failed to bring up the bill for a vote before the 2015 session ended.
This November, the suit over the designated player issue filed by the Seminoles, was settled on their behalf when the court ruled that the state had violated the original compact. It was a major victory for the Tribe, giving them the house-banked games exclusivity for the entire duration of the original 20-year gaming compact.
Senate President Negron said that the legislators were “close to having the outline of a potential agreement last season, so it’s not as if we’re starting from scratch.” He noted that there’s still plenty of time to reach an agreement, with the new session not starting till March 2017.
As far as the issue of slots are concerned, Negron did point out that Duval county voters had approved of slot operations via a local referendum earlier this month, and that he would “personally feel obligated to defer to that.” In other words, the Seminoles may have to concede a little concerning the proliferation of slot operations in order to keep the exclusivity of house-banked table games.
Despite a favorable court ruling for the Seminole Tribe, the overly conservative Florida House will still do their best to thwart a new bill that authorizes gambling expansion.