Senate Plan Allows Seminoles to Offer Craps and Roulette in Exchange for $400 million
On March 24th, 2009, an important Senate lawmaker improved the ante on Seminole gaming as he unveiled a pair of proposals to give the Indian tribe and pari-mutuels all over the state more games while slashing the tax rate on non-Indian casino facilities around Florida. The state would earn the benefits to the payouts supporters say could reach $1 billion.
The Senate Regulated Industries Committee is expected to review the proposal on Wednesday. Its main sponsor is Senator Dennis Jones, R-Seminole. Jones is the head of the panel. The Senate's top budget official stated that the chamber will include Indian gaming money into its budget proposal, which improves the chances that some form of gambling compact makes its way out of the money-strapped legislature.
Senator JD Alexander, the head of the Senate Policy Committee on Ways and Means said that it is not something that he personally favors, but at the end of the day, they have to do something about the budget. But the question remains is how willing the House will be to approve gambling expansion opportunities around Florida in exchange for a bigger earning.
The House has historically been less enthusiastic to gaming expansion but an improving number of legislators are being convinces that as long as the Seminole tribe are going to be permitted to operate, Florida should get its share.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist entered into an agreement with the Seminole tribe in December 2007. However, that gaming compact was cancelled by the Florida Supreme Court, which decided that the Legislature had to approve any such agreement. The House Select Committee on Seminole Indian Gaming Compact Review is scheduled to convene on Friday to review its legislative proposal.
A draft of its proposal proposes a more limited and less lucrative agreement that permit slot machines at the Seminole tribe's casinos in exchange for $100 million and does not expand non-Indian gambling beyond the counties of Miami Dade and Broward.
Under the plan of the Senate, the Seminole Tribe could even add craps and roulette to their offerings at its 7 casino facilities, including Immokalee casinos. The tribe would pay Florida at least $400 million annually. Pari-mutuel facilities like the Naples/Fort Myers Greyhound racing track would see their taxes drop to thirty five percent while being permitted to offer slot machines and expanded gaming offerings.
Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where voters approved a referendum allowing gambling, would get blackjack and other card games. All pari-mutuel facilities would be permitted to offer video lottery terminals.