After five years of debate over the subject, the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have come to an agreement over gambling rights in the Sunshine State. It will allow for the Seminoles to build three more casinos, but perhaps more important is that it will open the state for sports betting. The newly signed compact still has to make it through the Florida legislature, however, which will meet May 17 to debate the new bill.
More Casinos, Table Games Not Biggest Part of Deal
The agreement is a massive windfall for the state of Florida. Under the new compact, the state will receive straight out $500 million a year in annual payments from the Seminole Indians. This amount is a minimum payment per year, meaning it could go even higher if gaming revenues go higher. It also covers the next 30 years, which is almost unheard of in gaming compacts because it hamstrings both the government and the Seminoles in what they can do.
There’s a couple of things that could be seen almost immediately with the signing of the new compact and its ratification. The Seminoles will be allowed to build three more casinos on their existing reservation property in Hollywood and Tampa, while expanding to add another operation in Brighton near Lake Okeechobee. The tribe also gets the rights to table games such as roulette and craps for their properties, adding in another gaming option for visitors to the Seminole properties.
The big change – and perhaps the biggest obstacle – in the new compact is the passage of mobile sports betting. Under the new compact, the Seminoles would be the exclusive operator of mobile sports betting in the state of Florida, with Florida becoming the 29th state to provide such services. It is thought that the Seminoles would partner with an existing sports betting operation such as DraftKings or FanDuel to provide such services to their customers.
Other casinos and poker rooms would also be allowed to operate within this mobile sports betting framework. They would be able to keep 60% of the revenue they receive through bets on their mobile outlets, but all the action would be funneled through the Seminole Indians’ servers. The new compact also allows for further online gaming expansion potentially in the future.
Compact May Violate Florida Constitution
It would be incorrect to assume that everyone is happy with the new compact.
In 2018, Florida voters passed a change to the Florida Constitution, Amendment 3, that required any new gaming outlets to be approved by 60% of Florida voters before it could be put into effect. Although the current governor of the state, Ron DeSantis, does not believe that there is any “new” gaming in the compact, there are plenty of people who are stating that the mobile gaming option violates the Constitution. There are already people that are lining up to fight the new compact in court.
One of the key leaders of this opposition is Armando Codina, a businessman from Miami, and Norman Braman, an auto dealership owner. They have mounted many an opposition to expansion of gambling in the Sunshine State and have already come out with a statement that, if the state legislature approves the compact, they will sue to stop it. “We are prepared to fight it in court,” Codina stated to Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times. “We have been receiving calls from people who want to join in the effort.”
The new compact still has some hurdles to jump through. First would be the Florida legislature. DeSantis’ fellow Republicans control that body, so any debate is expected to be purely facial and passage of the compact a formality. Where the compact may be held up is with the U. S. Department of the Interior, which is the overseer of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. They would have to approve the compact before it could be put into action. After that, the legal battles would begin, so it still may be some time before anything happens with sports betting in Florida.