Florida Lawmakers And Seminole Tribe Reopen Debates

Florida legislators decided to renew debates with the Seminole Tribe last Thursday and negotiate their participation in the state’s gambling business. Bill Galvano, gambling expansion advocate and expected Senate President, met with Jim Allen, Seminole Gaming CEO in order to reinstate talks about Seminoles’ involvement in Florida casinos due to the upcoming ballot.

Legislators must come to an agreement with the tribal officials before November this year, since residents of the Sunshine State will have an opportunity to cast a vote whether any future gambling expansions depend on them. A total of 60% positive votes can result in a Constitutional amendment, which would limit Legislature’s control over further gambling growth. In other words, the power would be given to voters and all future decisions or propositions would have to be approved through a poll.

The agreement between tribal officials and legislative leaders is important due to significant yearly casino revenues and the state’s offerings, which could seriously decline if the Legislature gets stripped of power in November. Important to realize is that the Seminole Tribe was given monopoly over a number of table games in exchange for a fraction of its casino income. Although the agreement expired in 2015, the two sides had just recently settled the dispute over the table games exclusivity. The decision has not yet been approved, but it will include further exclusive rights in exchange for an annual amount of $250 million USD.

The Senate also proposed a new gambling bill last month which entails the addition of slot machines across eight counties and further development of the industry. However, the Florida House is rather conservative in regards to gambling and any additional extensions of the industry are taken with reserve. Galvano is not convinced that residents and industry stakeholders are willing to achieve any agreement before the ballot in November, but firmly believes in negotiations with the Seminoles and hopes that the outcome could serve as an example for the others.