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Gov. Crist and Seminole Tribe Crafts New Gaming Agreement

On April 24th, 2009, ahead of the break of the current legislative session next week, officials in Florida are actively pursuing an elusive agreement that will solve the state's relationship with the Seminole tribe and improve the education budget.

Aside from that, Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe have proposed a revised agreement that would give Florida $600 million in upfront payment, with up to $500 million next year and profit shares in the following years. The new gaming agreement would give the Seminole tribe exclusive rights to feature blackjack and slot machine gaming outside of South Florida, but would make some concessions to pari-mutuel facilities worried about being forced to compete with Seminole gaming facilities.

Existing gaming establishments at pari-mutuels in South Florida would see poker limits improved, extended opening hours and be permitted to have ATMs on the gaming floor. The proposal is a last ditch effort to solve the differences between the Seminoles and Florida pari-mutuel operators and in doing so persuade the legislature to take another look at a gaming deal that was approved in 2007 but cancelled by the state Supreme Court of Florida.

According to Mr. Marc Dunbar, a partner at the law firm of Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell and Dunbar in Tallahasee, Florida said that everything is now on hold until the tribe and state officials finalize an agreement. But behind the scenes, a thorough lobbying is being undertaken to broker an agreement that will leave both parties satisfied.

The current legislative session ends next week, but if the legislature does not confirm the legality of the Seminole blackjack games, there is a possibility legal challenge to stop the games in a federal court, headed by the House of Representative through the office of the House Speaker. Crist said that they have a duty as public officials to ensure the welfare and future of the state.

The gaming agreement amounts to a more than $700 million improvement on what the Seminole tribe would have paid in the first 2 years of the gaming compact Gov. Crist negotiated with the Seminole tribe in 2007. The Seminole tribe have also made important investments in their blackjack games, which are now functioning successfully and employs thousands of individuals.

Any moved by the legislature to shut down the games and add to the unemployment rate would not bode well with public opinion. While Representative Bill Galvano, the Republican who heads the House committee reviewing the gambling compact says that the offer of more payment will not force legislators to change their own gaming compact, there are signs that they are moving closer to a gaming agreement.


Thursday, May 21 , 2009
Emma Green