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Florida Officials and Seminole Tribe Hopeful for a Compromise on Gaming Deal

The framework of a gambling deal with the Seminoles is currently underway as the leading negotiations from the Florida House and the tribe's attorney are working toward creating a new deal in time for legislators to begin counting on the money this legislative session.

The details are not yet clear, but sources close to the talks say that both parties are moving towards a compromise. It would permit Florida to set aside the $430 million from a gambling deal this year and then reevaluate the compact in 3-5 years if legislators decide to expand gambling in other parts of the state and end the Seminoles' monopoly on the game of blackjack and other casino table games.

Barry Richard, a lawyer for the tribe, said that it is one of the ideas that are being discussed to break the impasse. Seminole representatives have been talking with Rep. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) and Sen. Mike Haridopolos (R-Melbourne), to resolve the deadlocked over the gaming deal signed between the Seminole tribe and Gov. Charlie Crist last August 2009.

Rep. Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), a key member of the Florida House leadership, said that he thinks that they are close on finalizing an agreement and believes that they can make a resolution that will be acceptable to both sides.

Under the idea being discussed by both sides, the Seminole tribe would pay Florida about $150 million annually for five years and have the exclusive right of offering blackjack and other casino table games in South Florida.

If the legislature permits horse racing tracks and pari-mutuel facilities to offer blackjack and other casino table games, the tribe's payments to Florida would be reduced but continue on slot machines for the next twenty years.

Barry Richard said that those payments would end if Florida approved casino-style video lottery terminals or other casino table games outside of the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward, creating new gaming competition.

If legislators agree to a compromise that will be acceptable to both sides, they are expected to connect it to an approval of a measure that will lower the tax rate for Florida pari-mutuels, from fifty percent of operating revenues to thirty-five percent, making it easier for pari-mutuel facilities to compete with the Seminole tribe. Rep. Galvano was also optimistic that they will reach an acceptable compromise.

Barry Richard was also hopeful about a positive result from the talks since it is the first time that the Florida Senate and House leadership is talking directly to them. He added that if both sides can find a neutral ground, they can make the whole thing work.


Thursday, March 18 , 2010
Emma Green