Florida House and Senate legislators for another week failed to reach an agreement on a gambling deal that could see hundreds of millions of dollars enter the state’s coffers.
However, Governor Ron DeSantis believes a deal could be agreed upon before the end of the current legislative session.
The House Gaming Control Subcommittee canceled a second scheduled Friday meeting during which lawmakers serving in the two chambers of the Florida Legislature could have revealed some sort of a gambling deal. This indicates that state legislators are still failing to come anywhere near an agreement.
In addition, an important third party in a potential sweeping gambling reform – the Seminole Tribe of Florida – has prominently not been part of the ongoing discussions. The tribe operates a number of casinos across the state and has massive business and political influence.
Following the end of Florida’s 2019 legislative session, Seminole casinos terminated a revenue-sharing agreement the tribe signed with the state a decade ago. Florida could have received an estimated $330 million in gambling money from the Seminoles last year, if they kept directing that money into state coffers.
Gov. DeSantis said Thursday that he hopes “we can get something done” and that it would be good if they can reach a deal.
Failed Attempt at Deal
Florida Senator Wilton Simpson succeeded in reaching a deal with the Seminole Tribe in the last days of the Legislature’s 2019 session. However, Gov. DeSantis, who stepped in as Florida’s highest ranking official in early 2019, refused to rubber stamp the proposal, saying that it was tabled before him too late and he did not have enough time to review it thoroughly.
The Governor said this past Thursday that during his first legislative session he tried to focus on the things he campaigned on, and these things did not include a new tribal compact.
He went on that “there was just no way I was going to sign the state up for a 30-year agreement, 48 hours into it.” The Governor further pointed out that over the past year he has had a chance to “really understand what the state should benefit from it.”
Under the Seminoles’ original compact with the state, they were granted the exclusive right to offer blackjack at their casinos around Florida. In exchange, the tribe agreed to share a significant portion of its gambling revenue with the state.
In 2015, the tribe warned the state that it would cease the revenue-sharing agreement, arguing that Florida has violated the terms of their compact by allowing the state’s pari-mutuels to offer so-called designated player card games.
A judge sided with the tribe saying that the controversial card games indeed violated the Seminoles’ blackjack exclusivity. Florida legislators and tribal officials have been unable to agree on the terms of a new deal for five years now.
The tribe has asked the state to expand its exclusivity beyond blackjack and across other card games, but lawmakers have remained extremely cautious on that issue.