Florida Governor Charlie Crist, first tried to make a gaming compact with the Seminoles in November 2007. It seemed an excellent idea if some of the money they took in from their 7 casino facilities-which tribes, as sovereign nations, may offer on their reservations-was alloted for the state.
But he forgot to include the state legislature on the agreement and the state Supreme Court, taking the offended legislators side, cannceled the gaming compact the following year. Since then the financial crisis has affected Florida as hard as anywhere in the US and the casino gaming revenues have come to seem even more acceptable.
So a second version of the Seminole gaming compact was approved by Gov. Crist on August 31st, 2009, just hours before the deadline imposed by the state legislature expires. The new compact will last for twenty years rather than the original twenty-five years. The Seminole tribe will also pay Florida a minimum of $12.5 million a month for thirty months or $375 million in all for the opportunity to offer banked card games like blackjack and slot machines.
Most of the money will be alloted to the education system of Florida, from kindergarten up to state universities. Erik Eikenberg, Gov. Crist's chief of staff and who helped to negotiate the 2nd gaming compact, stated that the new deal will create an additional forty-five thousand jobs which would be a great relief in an economy that is looking for additional source of income.
It will also provide an estimated $6.8 billion into the state of Florida's economy over the next twenty years. Yet the money from Seminole gaming is far from secure. Legislators are worried about how they will effectively regulate the Seminole casinos internally.
The tribe have won the concession that the Department of Revenue will regulate the casinos. Rep. Bill Galvano, the lead negotiator of the Florida legislature said that the Seminoles should not tell them how to regulate them. Galvano said that another point of contention in the new gaming agreement is that it bans any expansion of blackjack, electronic bingo and Las Vegas-style slt machines outside the Florida casino facilities which the tribe operates.
Horse and dog racing tracks are hoping to offer slot machines in areas well away from the casino facilities. The Seminole tribe have been trying for more than twenty years to make some sort of gaming agreement with Florida. They are optimistic about the chances of the new gaming compact.
Committee discussions on the new gaming compact will start in October 2009. But as the whole process will take weeks to complete and as the chances of rejection are still considerably high, it appears that Florida residents and the state government will have to wait longer for their money.
Thursday, September 17 , 2009