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Governor Crist Negotiating With Seminoles to Increase Annual Gaming Payments

On April 15th, 2009, Governor Charlie Crist's office is negotiating a modified gaming agreement with the Seminole Indian Tribe as the Florida House and Senate remains at odds over the agreement. Under the new gaming compact, the tribe would improve a part of future revenues in exchange for Florida allowing the tribe to continue their slots operations and offer card games like baccarat and blackjack.

Governor Crist's staff confirmed that they are currently talking with Seminole tribe officials and hope to create a plan to present to legislators in time for them to approve it before the current session ends in less than 3 weeks. Details of the agreement have yet to be finalized, but the Seminole Tribe would have to shell out more than the amount it has given Florida-about $137 million and an expected $288 million by the end of 2009.

Just last year, the Florida Supreme Court dismissed an agreement Governor Crist made with the Seminole tribe, giving it the right to host Class III slot machines, as required by existing federal law and permitting it to offer card games in return for a portion of its earnings, about $100 million annually for education. The Supreme Court decided that Governor Crist lacked the power to allow card games since they are not permitted elsewhere in Florida and only legislators could modify the law to allow them.

House and Senate officials have refused to approve the original gaming compact and instead made two different gaming proposals raising questions about whether a final agreement can be reached before the current legislative session ends, as Governor Crist had hoped.

As legislators struggle to solve the $6 billion budget deficit, a significant increase in the amount of money the tribe gives the state could improve the deal. Seminole Tribal Councilman Max Osceola refused to comment about the issue. House Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review Chairman Bill Galvano's gaming plan would limit the Seminole tribe to Class III slot machines at their casinos and prevent them from offering card games.

The Senate gaming plan would allow the Seminole tribe to offer craps and roulette to its casino facilities. So far, Rep. Galvano has balked at any gaming expansion beyond Las Vegas style slot machines. But Galvano said that if they are talking about an increase to what they are paying from their games and it is a reasonable request from what they want, then they will consider it.


Sunday, April 19 , 2009
Victor Sanchez