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House Gaming Proposal to Scale Back Seminole Gaming

On April 4th, 2009, a House committed signed off on a proposal that would command Governor Charlie Crist to negotiate a new gambling compact that would strip the Seminole Indian Tribe of blackjack and baccarat but would permit slot machines. Rep. Bill Galvano, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review said that he thinks that it is an outstanding committee bill and will help them move forward in the whole process.

The committee is studying an agreement between Florida and the Seminole Indian tribe, owner of 7 casino facilities in the state. If the measure became a proposal, it would guarantee the state a minimum of one hundred million dollars yearly or eighteen percent of gaming revenues. The gaming compact's term would be reduced from twenty-five to ten years. A gaming agreement with the Seminoles is extremely important because the financial crisis has dried up revenue sources that Florida originally relies upon to balance the budget, estimated at sixty-five billion dollars this year.

The gaming proposal would permit the Seminole tribe to offer slot machines at its casino facilities, one of which is the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, Florida, forty miles north of Manatee County. Although the Miami-Dade and Broward counties already allow slot machines, the House version of the gaming compact would not allow them in other parts of the state, except for casino properties owned and managed by the Seminole tribe. The proposal would require the Seminole tribe to stop offering blackjack and baccarat within ninety days of the gaming compact's effective date.

James Allen, the chairman of the Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming said that they are encouraged that the House is continuing to review the issue. They look to continue cooperating with both the House and Senate to reach a solution that will be beneficial to all parties. The state Supreme Court cancelled the original gaming compact on grounds that Governor Crist had exceeded his authority by not consulting the legislature first before approving the compact.

Crist said that the gaming compact represents $288 million dollars for education for this year and it is just the beginning of billions of dollars that will be allotted to Florida's schools during the next twenty-five years.

Also supporting Governor Crist's stance was the executive director for the Florida School Boards Association, Wayne Blanton and the chief executive for the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, William J. Montford III. Galvano said that the House committee is scheduled to study measures that might help Florida's twenty-seven pari-mutuel business like the Sarasota kennel Club, are able to compete effectively under the terms of a gaming agreement with the Seminole tribe.

Jack Collins Jr. a kennel club owner stated that he may be force to shut down his business if Florida agrees to an arrangement that puts him at a disadvantage. House Representatives support a more conservative gaming proposal than one under review in the Senate, which would greatly improve what Governor Crist negotiated with the tribe in 2007. The Senate would permit gambling at both tribal casinos and pari-mutuel businesses.

Its version is estimate to produce $400 million dollars next year for Florida. Galvano said that the Senate wants full-blown casinos. Aside from that, the Senate wants to add craps and roulette to the Seminole's gaming line-up and card games to pari-mutuel facilities all over the state.


Wednesday, May 06 , 2009
Thomas Johnson