The Seminole Indians of Florida have been at an impasse with state lawmakers regarding how to develop a new gambling compact. The tribe has always had virtually autonomous control over the activity in the state, but recent actions by the government have left the Seminoles wanting to better protect that control. A recent draft to bring the impasse to an end and avoid the potential loss of millions of dollars to the government was designed to extend the peace pipe and give the tribe access to sports gambling, but is apparently now just barely hanging on to life.
The Sunshine State’s legislation is going to pack up and head out to wherever as of this Friday when the current legislative session ends. There reportedly will be no call for a special session to be held in order to address the issue, or any other issue, which could mean the Seminoles might withhold millions of dollars in payments as a result of no active compact being in place.
The draft deal made it to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis and offers the Seminoles the right to launch a sportsbook, as well as roulette and craps at all seven of the tribe’s Hard Rock venues in the state. Pari-mutuel race tracks, which aren’t owned by the tribe, would essentially become tribal “affiliates” and would be able to offer sports gambling kiosks that would offer a cut to the Seminoles.
The deal is reportedly worth $400 million to Florida annually over the next 31 years. It could potentially increase to $500 million each year and is said to be the largest revenue-sharing deal between any tribe and its home state ever drafted in the United States.
As financially beneficial as the new compact sounds for both the tribe and Florida, there is still some resistance to putting it into action. In 2016, then-Governor Rick Scott successfully negotiated a compact with the tribe that would have given the state $3 billion over seven years. The state legislature rejected it, leaving Scott to negotiate a different deal in order to keep the money coming in.
Prior to the 2016 negotiations, the Seminoles had the right to control card games in the state, but pari-mutuel tracks found a loophole and began offering their own version. The Seminoles didn’t react well and threatened to stop making payments to the government. A federal court sided with the tribe and things began to look bleak for Florida. The tribe felt empowered by the judge’s decision and has continued to wield that power to maintain its control over gambling in Florida.
When asked if it will stop making payments to the state in light of the legislation’s inability to reach an agreement on the new compact, a tribal representative offered no comment.