Possible Gambling Deal Once Again Buzzed About in Florida

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A possible gambling deal in Florida is on the rise, as Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe negotiate, three weeks into the 2021 Legislative Session.

Gov. DeSantis Wants to Negotiate Deal with Seminole Tribe

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe could negotiate a gambling deal three weeks into the 2021 Legislative Session in Florida. DeSantis said on Thursday, after he met with the operators of the state’s pari-mutuel venues, that the issue could be resolved “within the next week or so“ or be entirely taken off the table. 

He stated that it is unlikely for him to consider a deal that would harm the tribe. He stated that he is not working for the tribe. DeSantis takes into consideration the interest of Florida’s businesses and employees. The governor also added that one way or another, there would be a resolution no matter if there would be an actual agreement or a deal would remain elusive.

Last year, Seminole Gaming was granted a Corporate Social Responsibility award by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). It is the second time the Seminole has won the award, and the first time was in 2014.

At the end of 2020, the Seminole Tribe inked a deal with Everi Holdings, an entertainment technology provider, to bring a mobile technology wallet to Florida. It is a cashless, contactless payment solution for electronic gameplay.

Seminole Tribe Stopped Paying in May 2019 

In 2009 the tribe signed a deal with the state, which provided a revenue-sharing agreement. Under the compact, the Seminole Tribe was paying roughly around 340 million per year or 12.5% of their gross gaming revenue. For reference, in Massachusetts, the annual taxation is $575 million, and in Pennsylvania, it is $928 million.

In 2015 the Seminole Tribe signed off a 20-year compact deal that would guarantee long-term security and certainty. In 2018, the tribe filed a lawsuit against the state. The deal, which the tribe inked with Gov. Rick Scott, included exclusive rights to operate blackjack and add craps. 

However, in the next session, the Florida Legislature rejected it. The proposed 20-year compact was supposed to guarantee stability for the tribe. It was estimated to generate revenue of $3 billion over the next seven years. The tribe has also stopped paying its contributions in May 2019. 

On Thursday, Senate President Wilton Simpson, who has tried to make a deal with the Seminoles, also met with pari-mutuel operators. He said that he would like to see the deal finalized. He stated that Florida lost approximately $700 million since the Seminole Tribe has stopped paying. According to him, the state and the tribe are getting closer to a level of understanding.

Skepticism Towards Approval of Any Compact

House Speaker Chris Sprowls expressed his skepticism that the state and the tribes will reach any compact agreement. He said that in the six years of his service in the House, that has never happened. On Thursday, he stated that the issue is very complex.

He compared the issue of gaming in Florida with a children’s song about the human body, “the foot bone’s connected to the knee bone.” Sprowls said that everything is connected. As Sprowls and Simpson have a holistic conversation, the speaker said that he is open to anything that makes sense. However, he doesn’t want to have individual isolated talks on the issue.

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