Florida Senate President Bill Galvano said earlier this week he is “encouraged” by the progress of talks between the state Legislature and the Seminole Tribe on a new gambling deal
Sen. Wilton Simpson has been tapped as the lead negotiator in the ongoing discussions with tribal officials. The legislator is slated to replace Mr. Galvano as the state Senate’s top official after the 2020 elections.
Sen. Simpson has been negotiating a new gambling agreement with Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming, the gambling arm of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The state hopes to land a new deal with the tribe before the current one expires at the end of May.
The tribe and the state signed their original compact in 2010. Under provisions of that agreement, the Seminoles were granted exclusivity over the provision of blackjack at its casinos across South Florida. In exchange, the tribe has been contributing a share of its revenue to the state.
The exclusivity portion of the compact expired nearly four years ago and state legislators and tribal officials have been trying to negotiate a new agreement since then. Attempts for the involved parties to reach a deal have even ended up in court at some point.
The Seminoles argued that the state had violated the terms of the original compact by allowing pari-mutuels to offer the so-called designated player games. A federal court judge sided with the tribe saying that the controversial games violated its blackjack exclusivity. Tribal officials even threatened to stop the annual payments to the state.
Florida’s former Governor Rick Scott managed to make peace with the tribe and save the hundreds of millions of dollars the state received from tribal casinos.
However, those payments are now threatened if a deal fails to be reached by the end of May. The state’s Legislature has estimated that it could receive up to $350 million from the tribe. However, the Senate removed that additional revenue from the proposed budget for the next fiscal year to prevent any significant financial impact from the potential failure of negotiations.
Table Games Exclusivity and Sports Betting
Commenting on media reports that a deal is under discussions, Senate President Galvano said Wednesday that “there’s still a lot that has to be done before anything can be finalized, but I am encouraged.”
The top Senate lawmaker also revealed that the authorization of the tribe to provide sports betting was part of the ongoing discussions. Last May’s landmark ruling of the US Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on the practice and multiple states have moved to legalize it since then.
It is believed that the Seminoles are urging the state to join the sports gambling frenzy and that the tribe is looking to be granted exclusive rights over wagering services.
Digital betting and additional table games for the Seminole casinos across Florida have too been part of the ongoing discussions, sources familiar with the matter have said.
While there seems to be progress, it should be noted that even though an agreement is reached, this does not necessarily mean that it would be approved by the House and by Gov. Ron DeSantis before the end of the legislative session on May 3.
And the state’s new Governor could stand in the way of the gambling agreement. Asked about his opinion on the matter, the legislator has said that he would certainly veto any proposal that benefits “just one little piece” over “a larger constituency.”
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