Editorial: Racinos seek a level playing field with Seminole Tribe

A patron at Casino Miami, a non-Indian racino in Florida. Photo from Facebook

Florida newspaper calls on lawmakers to authorize blackjack at non-Indian racsinos while extending a Class III gaming compact for the Seminole Tribe:
It's notable this year that the pari-mutuels, who've been ferocious competitors, have ended their "circular firing squad" lobbying efforts and joined hands around a single call: a level playing field with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Specifically, they want to offer blackjack, like the Seminoles do. They want a lower tax rate — 25 percent, rather 35 percent. They want to serve free drinks to playing patrons, place ATM machines on the casino floor and stay open 24 hours every day, not just on weekends, like the Seminoles do.

Unlike pari-mutuels elsewhere in Florida, the eight in Broward and Miami-Dade counties can offer slot machines, the result of a 2004 constitutional amendment drive. But rather than continue as "racinos," many would like to stop running races, on which they say they each lose $3 million to $7 million per year. Instead, they'd like to complete their evolution into Florida's "commercial casinos," starting with house-banked table games like blackjack and baccarat.

But in 2010, the tribe, which cannot be taxed, negotiated a five-year compact that gives its five biggest casinos the exclusive right to these games, in return for sharing revenue with the state. A second agreement also gives tribal casinos the exclusive right to offer slot machines outside South Florida for another 15 years. For these two deals, the tribe last year paid the state a $234 million guaranteed payment, plus an extra $22 million, because its $2.2 billion in gaming revenues exceeded estimates.

However, the racinos point out that the blackjack deal, which expires July 31, foresaw the day when they would get more betting games. Indeed, the compact says that if Broward and Miami-Dade racinos get table games and the Seminoles take a hit, the tribe can reduce its revenue share by half the impact. So if the Seminoles lose $30 million from new competition, they could deduct $15 million from their revenue-share bill.

Get the Story:
Editorial: Deal South Florida racinos a better hand (The South Florida Sun-Sentinel 4/7)

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