Florida

Florida legislature approves new gambling pact, which includes sports betting, but it isn’t a done deal yet

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Florida lawmakers approved a gambling agreement signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe in April.

The bill, approved Wednesday, allows the Seminole tribe to add roulette and craps to its casinos, including the popular Hard Rock facilities in Hollywood and also Tampa. In return, the state would be expected to receive an estimated $20 billion over the 30-year compact.

Now the approval needs to go through the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations to make official.

If that happens the tribe can begin sports betting Oct. 15. and operate sports wagering at horse tracks, jai-alai frontons and former dog tracks for a share of the income. Online sports betting operated by the tribe also would be allowed.

The Legislature held a special session to consider the agreement a little more than two weeks after ending its annual 60-day session.

Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. said in a statement on behalf of the 4,300 members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida regarding Wednesday’s ratification.

“… It is a historic and mutually-beneficial partnership between the State and Seminole Tribe that will positively impact all Floridians for decades to come. . . ,” said Osceola.

Florida’s original compact with the Seminoles gave the tribe exclusive rights to slot machines and blackjack. In exchange, the tribe paid the state several billion dollars — which all but dried up after it expired in 2015 .

The new compact would guarantee the state $2.5 billion over the next five years and an estimated $6 billion by 2030.

Although Osceola stated that “all the people of Florida are winners, thanks to legislative approval of the Gaming Compact between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” not everyone agrees.

“We don’t want it here,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. “We don’t want it in Miami. We don’t want it in South Florida.”

Opponents also say that the mobile sports betting component of the pact is unconstitutional.

“The compact relies on the illusion that if you are on your cellphone and placing a bet in Orlando or in downtown Miami — that because the computer server that is receiving that bet is on tribal lands that therefore that gambling is taking place on tribal lands,” said John Sowinski, president of the group www.nocasinos.org.

Sowinski released the following statement Wednesday after the compact was ratified.

“This fight is just beginning. We are committed to ensuring that the will of the people, who voted by a remarkable 72 landslide to give Florida voters the exclusive right to authorize casino gambling in our state, will be respected.”

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