Florida Faces Mid-June Deadline to Rework Tribal Gaming Compact
Florida will have to deal with the thorny issue of land-based casino gambling in the spring 2015 legislative session. As this site reported last year, Florida’s leaders ignored outstanding concerns until the midterm elections were over, because the gambling issue is too much of a wild card for politicians on either side of the aisle to predict.
Meanwhile, low-priority negotiations with the Seminole Tribe have continued over the months. Sometime in the next few months, a high-stakes deal should come to completion. Renegotiation with the Native American gambling community will be difficult, because of the deal currently in palce.
Previous Seminole Gaming Compact
Five years ago, the state of Florida signed a gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe in which the Florida Indian tribe was given exclusive rights to offer “banked games”. Along with those rights, the Seminoles paid $116 million a year to the state. The banked games rights, which allows the Seminoles to offer “player vs house” games like blackjack, is seet to expire in mid-July 2015.
That June deadline is putting tremendous pressure on the state’s lawmakers, who don’t want to lose the easy tax-free revenue the casino compact provides. At the same time, in-state and out-of-state gaming companies are trying to convince the Florida legislature they could sign a much more lucrative deal, if lawmakers ended the Seminoles’ monopoly and opened the door to national and international investment.
An Alternative Example
Several powerful gaming interests are active in Florida, or would like to be. For instance, the Genting Group spent $236 million three years ago to buy the Miami Herald Building, in hopes of turning the property into a Miami gaming resort that Genting CEO K.T. Lim has said would become “the face of Miami.” Yet the Seminole gaming compact has squelched any plans to open the casino, because the state would have to pay a massive indemnity if it had broken the terms of the compact.
Genting is a multinational conglomerate out of Malaysia with deep pockets. Genting Group makes $7 billion a year and employs 58,000 employees worldwide. In addition to owning the Resorts World Casino in Singapore, the company owns hotels, casinos, rubber plantations, and oil platforms around the globe. Currently, Genting is building Resorts World Las Vegas, which at $4.2 billion is the most expensive casino in the history of Las Vegas. The complex will be patterned on a full Chinese village, in what Mr. Lim has said would be a tourist landmark.
Republicans Are Playing Hardball
Republican lawmakers who will do the bulk of the negotiations for the government says the deadline provides leverage for the state, though. The GOP lawmakers have pointedly left the $116 million out of budget proposals for next year, as a sign they are willing to go ahead without the deal.
Andy Gardiner Ambivalent about Gaming
Some politicians go a step further. State Senae President Andy Gardiner, a Republican from Orlando, has said several times he would be happy to see casino card games go away altogether. Sen. Gardiner’s district is situated in the Orlando area, home to perhaps the biggest opponent of Florida casino gambling, the Disney Corporation. Disney says the state’s tourism industry is based on family entertainment, so the casino economy wold be a detriment to the state.
Bill Galvano to Lead Negotiations
Sen. Gardiner also draws support from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which is an opponent of casino expansion. Gardiner’s choice to be the chief negotiator on the Seminole casino deal this time around is Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, who negotiated the deal 5 years ago.
Both men say any deal is linked to the future of banked card games in the state. They imply that the banked card games are a stumbling block. Gardiner told the News Service of Florida, “Until that issue gets resolved, it’s hard to know if the Senate or the House is interested in even doing anything.”
“Banked Games” Wording Needs to Be Revised
Sen. Galvano, a Republican from Bradenton, says the tribe might have to remove its card games by the end of July. He said, “The banked card game component of the compact is the cornerstone of any gaming discussion going forward. But the compact itself does not need to be amended in any way.”
Though he admitted that the tribe could have the compact without negotiations, Bill Galvano added an implied threat to the Seminoles, though. “It will exist for the next 15 years. And there’s a very real possibility that the component containing card games will just self-execute and the tribe will have to remove the cards at the end of 90 days after July. I’m not pulling your leg. We thought about that going in.“
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