US Federal Officials Approve New Florida Seminole Gaming Compact
The US Department of the Interior (DOI) has cleared the way for legal sports betting in the state of Florida. This was part of a new gaming compact between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s Seminole Tribe.
The new 30 year compact was the result of ongoing negotiations between the governor and Florida’s only gaming tribe. That new deal was formally approved by state lawmakers earlier this spring. The final step of the process was completed earlier this month when the DOI reviewed and approved the compact on the federal level.
Opposition to the expansion of legal gambling in Florida still runs high in certain sectors of local government. However, the DOI approval maintains the Seminoles’ monopoly in the state. The new compact also clears the way for legal sports betting while also adding Roulette and Craps gaming tables to existing Seminole land-based tribal casino venues.
The biggest part of this new deal was the level of payments that the tribe will make to the state. This could be as high as $20 billion over the 30-year span of the new agreement.
Gov. DeSantis added the following comments as part of an official statement concerning DOI approval:
“The final approval of this historic gaming compact is a big deal for the State of Florida. This mutually-beneficial agreement will grow our economy, expand tourism and recreation and provide billions in new revenue to benefit Floridians.”
Under the old compact, the Seminoles were not making any revenue payments to the state. Over the first nine years of the new compact, the payment is guaranteed to be at least $6 billion.
Adding his thoughts to the new arrangement with the state was Marcellus Osceola Jr. as the Chairman of Florida’s Seminole Tribe. He stated:
“Today is a great day for the people of Florida, who will benefit not only from the $2.5 billion revenue sharing guarantee over five years, but also from statewide sports betting and new casino games that will roll out this fall and mean more jobs for Floridians and more money invested in this state.”
Terms of the new compact specified Oct. 15 as the target date to launch legal sports betting. This includes horse racing tracks, jai alai frontons and former dog racing tracks. The Seminole Tribe will control legal sports betting at land-based retail sportsbooks in existing casinos. The tribe will also operate online sports betting throughout the state.
The compact was approved by the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate. Democrats opposing the new deal continue to argue that the new compact is in violation of Amendment 3. This was passed by Florida voters in 2018.
Under its provisions, the state’s constitution prevents the expansion of gambling outside of tribal lands without voter approval.
Florida’s existing compact gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to offer slot machines and Blackjack at tribal gaming venues. In return, the Seminole Tribe would compensate the state based on gaming revenue. Those payments stopped coming in back in 2019.
Certain opposing groups have or are in the process of filing lawsuits to block the rollout of legal sports betting. It remains to be seen if any of these lawsuits will be able to prevent Florida’s planned launch this fall.
The new NFL season gets underway early in September. State officials are looking to capitalize of the popularity of betting on the games. At the very least, legal sports betting at tribal casino locations should be able to launch their operations on Oct. 15 as the set target date in the new compact.
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