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Florida Lawmakers, Seminole Officials Hold Talks over New Gambling Compact

Florida legislators are holding behind-the-scenes talks with the Seminole Tribe in a bid to agree a new gambling compact between the state and the tribe, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports

A key provision in the agreement between the Seminoles and Florida from 2010 expired nearly five years ago. Legislative leaders and tribal officials have been trying to renew that portion of the compact since then, but with little success.

Under the original agreement, the Seminole Tribe annually contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in casino revenue to the state in exchange for exclusivity over blackjack. Although their previous deal expired years ago, Florida’s former Gov. Rick Scott successfully reached an agreement with tribal officials that the tribe would keep sharing revenue with the state.

However, that deal is set to expire at the end of May, which means that Florida could lose nearly $350 million in additional revenue this year. The state Senate has removed the Seminoles’ annual payment from the upper chamber’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year to prevent any huge financial damage from a potential failure to negotiate a new compact.

Previous attempts for a deal to be reached even ended up in court. In 2016, a federal judge sided with the Seminoles in their claim that the state violated the terms of the 2010 compact that granted it exclusivity over blackjack by allowing pari-mutuels across Florida to offer the so-called designated player games.

The tribe threatened to stop its payments to the state back then, but Gov. Scott managed to make peace with tribal officials.

New Round of Talks

Senate President Bill Galvano told local media outlets earlier this week that behind-the-scenes talks were being held, but nothing solid had been agreed upon yet. It is understood that Sen. Wilton Simpson, who has been pitched as the successor of the current Senate President, has taken the lead in the ongoing gambling compact negotiations.

Mr. Galvano told media that Sen. Simpson has met with tribal officials earlier this week to discuss the terms of a potential new deal.

According to reports, the state Legislature will look to meet a “do-or-die” Wednesday deadline to negotiate a new compact with the tribe. This year’s legislative session is set to run until May 3, but the state Senate President said this week that they type of negotiations they are holding with the Seminoles “are valid to continue even if [they] go pass session and into the summer.”

It is understood that the Seminoles are pushing for sports betting this year, including the authorization of digital wagering. However, Mr. Galvano said that while the issue has indeed come up, nobody in the Senate “has agreed that online gaming is something that the tribe should have.”

It is also important to note that gambling expansion will be approached differently from this legislative session on. Florida voters approved last November a constitutional amendment that gave them the final say over practically every gambling-related matter discussed in the Legislature.

It also seems that Florida’s new Governor, Ron DeSantis, could too stand in the way of a gambling compact. The state’s top official has said that he would certainly veto any effort that does not benefit “a larger constituency” but “rather just one little piece.”

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The post Florida Lawmakers, Seminole Officials Hold Talks over New Gambling Compact appeared first on Casino News Daily.

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