The Seminole Tribe of Florida — the longtime biggest player in the state's gaming industry — has finally inked a deal with Governor Rick Scott designed to ensure the tribe remains the top shop in games of chance in the state. The new compact, however, also opens the door for an expansion of the Florida's gaming scene — a move that has critics already crying foul.
Under the new proposal, the details of which were released Monday night, the Seminoles will maintain an exclusive right to blackjack gaming at their seven casinos for the next seven years. The new compact also allows the tribe to expand craps and roulette at their properties. Pending approval by the state leguslature, the new deal means the tribe will hand over to the state a $3 billion cut in revenues.
“With a $3 billion guarantee along with a cap on the tribe’s gaming, it is my hope that this compact can be the foundation of a stable and predictable gaming environment for the state of Florida,” Scott wrote in letter this week to members of the legislature. “My execution of this compact is the first step in the process outlined in law, and I look forward to continuing to work with you and your respective chambers this session in order to ratify this $3 billion historic agreement.”
Let's get down into the nitty-gritty. The new compact covers a 20-year stretch, with the first seven years and $3 billion guaranteed. This is a significant boost from the previous 20-year deal, which included a $1 billion guarantee in a five-year stretch. If you break that down in a year-by-year analysis, that's a lot of change flowing into the state's piggy bank. In the first year alone, Florida is scheduled to pick up $325 million per the new deal, as opposed to $150 million under the old.
The deal also expressly ties the tribe to job development: 4,800 new direct and indirect jobs, 14,500 direct and indirect construction jobs. In the compact, the tribe also promises $1.8 billion in capital investment.
The new set-up would also enhance the presence of the State Compliance Agency inside the casinos, upping the inspections hours to 16 hours over two days each month (1,600 hours annually), up from 10 hours over two days each month (1,200 hours annually). The Seminoles will also pay more for the oversight — $400,000 annually, up from $250,000. The tribe has also pledged to give $1.7 million gift to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling — a big jump from the $250,000 the tribe gave annually under the older compact.
The tribe, it's important to point out, is not the only one benefiting from the deal. Under the new compact, parimutuels in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach can add new slots, and racinos can also expand into blackjack tables. This expansion will not represent a break in the compact — a change from the old deal. This opening up, joined with the Seminole's push into crabs and roulette, already has gaming critics denouncing the deal as a further step in making Florida Atlantic City South.
"Concessions that would allow more gambling, either by the tribe or others, would violate the original intent of the compact and the promise lawmakers made to the people of Florida when they approved it," John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, told the Orlando Sentinel in a recent interview.
Senator Jack Latvala complained to the Tampa Bay Times that the deal opens up gaming for the Seminoles and South Florida but would be unfair to other competing casinos in the Tampa area.