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Column: Seminole Tribe a 'wild card' in Florida's gaming debate

Filed Under: Compacts | Opinion
More on: exclusivity, florida, revenue sharing, seminole
Columnist examines how the Seminole Tribe will influence the future of gambling in Florida:
We already have a semblance of casino life here: Parimutuel "racinos" offer slot machines, poker and horse/dog/jai-alai betting, and Seminole tribal casinos in Broward offer slots, poker and table games like blackjack.

The full Vegas-style package — with everything under one roof, including real roulette and craps — is still missing. Local gamblers and some tourists would surely appreciate it.

But nothing in convoluted, complex Florida comes easily. So expect a big, messy fight between existing gambling interests (the parimutuels and Seminoles), prospective newcomers (Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Malaysian-based Genting, which bought prime waterfront land in downtown Miami) and gambling opponents (Disney, which wants to protect its Orlando theme park/convention turf.) All have armies of lobbyists and wield considerable political influence through campaign contributions.

Because the November ballot features the governor's race and mid-term Congressional elections, I'd be shocked if anything got done in the upcoming legislative session, which runs from March through May. Odds seem more favorable for change in 2015.

Whatever the Legislature decides, it needs to weigh the impact on existing gambling revenues. Last year, the state got $233 million from seven Seminole casinos across Florida and $152 million from seven South Florida parimutuel racinos. That's $385 million in annual revenue — not exactly chump change, but a lot less than gambling proponents projected when they pushed for slots via a constitutional amendment last decade.

The big wild card in all this is the Seminoles' ongoing gambling compact with the state, a portion of which is set to expire next year. The 2010 compact allows for new resort casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade, but the tribe's voluntary payments to the state would be cut significantly.

Get the Story:
Michael Mayo: Is expanded gambling really in the cards for 2014? (The South Florida Sun-Sentinel 2/18)

Also Today:
Casinos backers ready again to battle for expansion (The Florida Current 2/17)

Related Stories:
Florida governor eyes casino compact talks with Seminole Tribe (2/17)

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