Fla. lawmakers want to decide on compacts

November 13, 2007 7:13 AM
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The future of casino gambling in Florida may have to be decided by the courts.

Exactly who has the duty and responsibility to negotiate a gambling compact with the Seminole Indians is the subject being debated by both state and federal authorities.

The question is expected to end up in the courts since the office of Gov. Charlie Crist, disagrees with the legislative leaders who insist that Florida law places the decision making process squarely in their hands.

And in Washington, the Interior Department warned state leaders that if no compact is negotiated by Nov. 15 the feds will permit the Seminoles to expand the gaming menu at their seven casinos in South Florida.

Affected by the expansion of Class III games at the Seminole casinos will be the racinos at Gulfstream Park, operated by Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA); at Pompano Park, owned by Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE), and privately-held Hollywood Greyhound Track, now called Mardi Gras Casino by its private ownership.

The Seminoles have been pushing for a gaming expansion that would upgrade their Class II slot machines and permit them to introduce blackjack and baccarat gaming tables. Their efforts began with former Gov. Jeb Bush and have continued with Gov. Crist without success.

Last week, former Florida House Speaker John Mills, now a law professor at the University of Florida, wrote a legal opinion backing legislative leaders in their argument for final approval of any gaming compact.

Hanging over Gov. Crist’s head is the potential revenue that would flow to the state if a favorable compact is negotiated with the Seminoles. If there is no compact, and the feds permit the tribe to go forward with Class III products, the state stands to lose all gaming revenue from their casinos.

In his opinion, Mills concluded the federal law is silent on who should negotiate such compacts on behalf of states, but the Florida Constitution gives the Legislature, not the governor, the power to "make fundamental determinations of policy."

On the move

MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM) continues to spread its wings, whether it be international or domestically.

The company has announced that its MGM Grand Macau Hotel/Casino, a $1.25 billion development in which it has partnered with Pansy Ho, will open on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

Last week, the company revealed plans to build a $3 billion non-gaming resort in Abu Dhabi, in partnership with that government’s development firm Mubadala Development Co.

And on Monday, the company said it would partner with Foxwoods Development Company in applying for a gaming license in south-central Kansas. The project will be the first for the joint venture Unity Gaming LLC, a union that was formed in late 2006.

For the Kansas application, Unity will join forces with Sumner Gaming Ventures LLC, doing business as Chisholm Creed Casino Resort. The group includes Chisholm Creed Ventures LlC, led by former Wichita Mayor Bob Knight, and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

THE INSIDER: PokerTek Inc. (PTEK) says it has installed 12 automated poker tables and related software at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.

Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Fla., has announced that it will begin cutting purses this week. The operator said it was necessary to prevent overpayment of purses. The racetrack is owned by Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN).

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) says its planned buyout by a pair of private equity firms has been approved by members of the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Progressive Gaming International Corporation (PGIC) has promoted Derek Harmer to the position of senior vice president of Global Sports and Wireless Operations.

Analysts at Morgan Joseph have upgraded the shares of Shuffle Master Inc. (SHFL) to hold from sell.

In a non-binding referendum, residents of Lincoln, R.I., opposed expansion of the gaming menu at Twin River Casino. They also rejected the proposal of opening the property 24 hours.

The directors of Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA) have approved a "golden parachute" provision to protect the company’s executives if the company is sold.

Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Ind., owned by Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD) has released 6% of its workforce in response to increased competition from a tribal casino that has opened up just 10 miles away.