With Florida emerging as one of the largest gambling states in the nation, legislative leaders are prepared to put gaming regulation on center stage in the next two years and renegotiate the revenue-sharing compact with the Seminole Tribe at least a year early.
House Speaker Will Weatherford and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz are vocal opponents of expanding gambling, but both told the Herald/Times that they believe it’s time to take a comprehensive look at all gambling in the state and include the tribal compact, which now brings the state $233 million a year.
“We currently have a lot of gambling in the state of Florida, but we have to take a very holistic view,” said Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican. “There needs to be clarity and direction as to where the state is going,” he added, and the tribal compact will “very likely” be part of that.
The Broward-based tribe is the owner of the Hard Rock Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa and five other casinos in Florida. Its agreement with the state gives the Seminoles the exclusive right to offer blackjack and other table games in Miami Dade and Broward counties through 2015 in exchange for annual payments to state and local governments.
Legislators imposed the expiration date when they ratified the compact in 2010 to give the state time to take a comprehensive look at Florida’s gambling laws. Renewing it would allow the tribe to take up the issue before voters would take up a proposed constitutional amendment sought by the Malaysian-based casino giant, Genting, in 2014, and before political winds in the Legislature change in 2015. More here.