Seminoles pressure Florida lawmakers

Feb 3, 2016 9:00 AM

Florida lawmakers are feeling increased pressure to approve the $3 billion gaming compact negotiated by Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Scott and tribal officials met this week to discuss the deal and the $1.8 billion expansion of tribal properties that may not happen any time soon unless the compact is approved. Thousands of jobs, they said, would be created by the proposed expansion that promises the state at least $3 billion over seven years.

Scott and Seminole Chairman James Billie signed the seven-year compact in December, but it has languished in the state Legislature’s annual session. Scott, Billie and other tribe officials met Monday at the Seminoles’ Hollywood headquarters to make a renewed push for approval with the expansion plan as a sweetener.

“I think this is the biggest compact ever signed in this country,” Scott said. “I think it’s fair to the state of Florida and it’s fair to the Seminoles.”

The expansion at its Hollywood and Tampa Hard Rock resorts would create over 4,800 permanent full-time jobs and over 14,500 construction jobs. Seminole Gaming CEO James Allen said the tribe needs the certainty of the proposed compact to move forward and noted that the tribe had kept its promises under the previous compact.

The deal would provide Florida $3 billion over seven years in exchange for limits on the tribe’s competition and other guarantees, including allowing it to operate table games such as roulette and craps at its seven casinos. The deal also allows for the addition of slot machines at a Palm Beach county dog track, leaves an opening for another casino in Miami-Dade, and would allow existing tracks in that county and in Broward to eventually add blackjack tables.

The compact has not been voted on by any Florida House or Senate committees. Various gambling and anti-gambling interests are likely to suggest changes, which Scott would have to approve for it to become law.

Thee are also other interests that want a piece of the gambling action that currently belongs mostly to the Seminoles.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected].