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Florida Pari-Mutuel Facilities to Benefit from New Seminole Gambling Agreement

The legislature of Florida and the Seminole tribe are getting closer to creating a final gaming deal and the result will likely be a win-win situation for gambling interests in Southwest Florida.

Immokalee's Seminole Casino facility will continue to offer blackjack and the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Racing Track in Bonita Springs will get the opportunity to offer some expanded forms of gaming-bingo-based wagering machines, longer operation hours and larger poker buy-ins.

The agreement would immediately produced $450 million for the state budget. Florida officials and the Seminole tribe have been negotiating a compact for more than three years now.

One was dismissed by the Florida state Supreme Court and the Florida House blocked Gov. Charlie Crist's latest negotiation attempts last year. Izzy Havenick of Miami, Florida, whose family owns the local dog racing track, said on March 29th, 2010 that anything is acceptable than nothing.

Havenick said that he thinks that both sides are close to finalizing an agreement, which is good for everyone. Although he is disappointed since he believes that deal is only a temporary solution to the problem that they are facing.

Under the terms of the agreement, Florida's pari-mutuel dog and horse racing tracks and jai-alai frontons will receive video bingo and historic race machines as long as they do not offer slot machines, to which the Seminole tribe is demanding exclusivity aside from blackjack.

Havenick said that machines would be some sort of pull tab games. Havenick and lobbyists for pari-mutuel facilities have been pushing for VLT's (video lottery machines), which is very similar to slot machines. But the Seminole tribe has not changed their stance on the issue, demanding exclusivity on the machines except in the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward.

Barry Richard, a Tallahassee lawyer who represents the Seminole tribe said that exclusivity has always been one of the main issues in the gaming compact. Richard added that the question is if the Florida Senate is will be willing to grant the level of exclusivity that the Seminole tribe believes that it needs.

One of the points of contention in the gaming compact discussions is a definition of what type of machines would be permitted at pari-mutuel facilities and how many would be allowed at each location. Legislators are pushing for five hundred to one thousand machines per establishments and more freedom in what they can look like.

Attorney Richard said that it will also depend on what the machines will allow players to do and if it poses some threat and jeopardizes the Seminole tribe's ability to fulfill what they had agreed to do. State Representative Matt Hudson (R-Naples), said that as far as he knows, the game of blackjack will stay in the Seminole Immokalee Casino.

Hudson said that if the bill has blackjack for the Immokalee casino, he will support it. He said that if it does not, he will vote against the bill. The previous agreements were for twenty years. The new one is for five years.

That gives legislators time to study what Florida's gaming industry should looks like, leading House negotiator Rep. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), has said. Attorney Richard said that he has had good discussion with Rep. Galvano and he hopes that they can finalize an agreement. Senator Dennis Jones (R-Seminole), the head of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, said that things were looking up for the agreement.

But Sen. Jones said that a vote by the Senate or House remains uncertain since there are some things that they need to resolve first.


Thursday, April 29 , 2010
Emma Green