Dear Mr. Grimm:
Somewhere in a netherworld between truth and untruth, someone’s writing articles on the compact.
After reading your column for many years, I think the time has come for you to take a short break from your writing and do the same thing...read! Based on your misunderstandings, I recommend reviewing the following materials:
a. The now-voided compact with the Seminole Indians.
b. The federal laws governing this defunct compact.
c. The Florida Supreme Court ruling invalidating the compact.
d. The attachments to this letter summarizing the issues and laws pertaining to the compact and its consequences for Florida.
Hopefully, you will take my advice and read-up on the issues so that you can write with greater understanding regarding the issues and complications surrounding any gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.
While I can’t say Senator Dan Gelber was very far off in his description of this mess as never-never land, I can help you and your readers understand some of the laws governing this fantasyland.
First, you state in your January 22 column, “Budget makes Seminole booty look tempting” that “after Broward voters approved racino slots, Gov. Charlie Crist knew the Indians had real negotiating heft.” Neither I nor you know for sure what the Governor “knew” at that moment, but the idea that, suddenly, the tribe was in a heightened position of negotiating strength is wholly incorrect.
The truth is what Governor Jeb Bush and his predecessors “knew” all along; the state has always had the negotiating muscle. Under federal law, the tribe is only entitled to operate certain forms of Class III gaming that are specifically permitted by state law. Prior to the 2004 Election, the tribes had been stretching the definition of Class II gaming to offer slot-like replicas that display slot-like results of electronic bingo.
After the 2004 Election, which authorized Class III slots for the first time, the tribe had to decide if they were going to continue operating the bingo games that do not require a compact or elect to negotiate a compact for Class III slot machines. As we know, the tribe chose to negotiate a compact, which is their right under the law.
However, the only obligation the state has under the same law is to negotiate in good faith. The state has absolutely no further obligation. But, in the absence of a compact, the tribe cannot legally offer any Class III games.
Lastly, and this is why I encourage you to review my suggested reading materials before writing again on the compact, you state “the tribes guaranteed the state $100 million a year…”. The truth is, there is no guarantee in the compact of any revenue to the state. In fact, the tribe could have unilaterally decided at any time to discontinue paying the state a dime.
For example, under the terms of the now-voided compact, if the tribe’s revenue dropped below $1.37 billion, the payments to the state would have ceased. Even more unbelievable was the provision allowing the tribe to halt payments if any new gaming, legal or illegal, is offered anywhere else in the state. This would mean any office pool on the upcoming Super Bowl or any new game from the Florida Lottery (such as the recently- added Powerball game), would have voided the compact. That’s hardly guaranteed money.
Meanwhile, Florida’s pari-mutuel industry, which employs more than 2,500 people in South Florida and has a total economic impact of $2.2 billion a year, does provide reliable revenue to the state. In the 2007-2008 Fiscal Year 2007-08 alone, the Broward pari-mutuels generated more than $132 million for the state, operating at just 26% of the market potential.
If the state wants to step out of fantasyland and into the real world of reliable, recurring revenue, they must legislate a level playing field for gaming in Florida. By crafting a deal that is in the best interest of the State of Florida, not just the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the state could realize more than $500 million in reliable, recurring revenue.
Now that’s some tempting booty.