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Talks continue over how to limit — but still expand — gambling in Florida
May 14, 2017 – 11:19 pm
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The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. (Luis Santana | Times)TALLAHASSEE — The deadline has passed for the Seminole Tribe to complete its negotiations with the state over whether it will be allowed to continue operating lucrative blackjack games at its Hard Rock casinos, but the cards are still on the table.

The stakes are so high for all the parties involved in Florida's complicated gaming landscape that legislators and the governor's office are trying to negotiate a way to turn a deal on the card games into a blueprint for gaming across the state by the onset of the legislative session on Jan. 12.

Among the issues: the prospect of another slots casino in Miami, slot machines in Palm Beach and Fort Myers, a requirement that future gambling licenses get statewide voter approval, and the promise of $3 billion in gaming proceeds directed into the state treasury over the next seven years.

"We're still talking, still hashing, " said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the Senate's lead negotiator who, along with the House's negotiator, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, has been meeting with the governor's general counsel, Tim Cerio, and lawyers for the Seminole Tribe.

"We know that the money is important to the governor, " Diaz said. "We know the constitutional amendment to limit gaming in the future is important to the House. We know that local requests are important to the Senate, because they need to pick up votes. But since there's been no big agreement, everything has been in flux."

The legal agreement, known as a compact, was first forged in 2010 to last 20 years. It gave the Seminole Tribe the exclusive right to operate slot machines at its five casinos outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties in exchange for a share of its revenues to the state — about $230 million a year.

Under the agreement, the tribe agreed to pay at least $234 million a year in exchange for the exclusive right to operate slot machines at four casinos outside of Miami-Dade and Broward. The tribe also got exclusive rights to blackjack, chemin de fer and baccarat at the Hard Rock Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood, and three other casinos, but that provision expired July 31, 2015.

When the deadline passed, the tribe had a 90-day grace period to reach a new deal with the state or shut the games down. Despite efforts to reach a deal, nothing was settled and the grace period has ended.

Source: www.tampabay.com
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