A couple of weeks ago, we were talking about the possibility of a last-minute state session deal between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe to expand sports gaming in Florida. Now that it hasn’t happened, the first shoe has dropped, that's likely to be a catalyst for change in Florida. As part of the existing Seminole Compact, providing exclusive gambling rights to the Tribe through this decade and next, the Tribe would provide monthly payments to the state and in return, the state would enforce the protections afforded to them under the deal. To date, the Seminoles have paid the state a minimum of $19.5 million monthly. Last year, the Tribe paid the state more than $321 million. Going forward that number will be zero.
The long story short is this. The Seminole’s have claimed that the state hasn’t properly enforced the compact and there are illegal operations around the state. In addition to the compact, the Tribe had a separate Blackjack exclusivity deal with the state. In 2016, the Tribe sued the state and won with a judge determining that Blackjack could remain at the casinos until 2030 without a specific deal. 2030 is when the compact ends.
Fast-forward to today, according to the Tribe, the state ended any effort to enforce exclusivity around their protections and without an agreement in-hand to rework the compact the Tribe has decided to end any payments under the compact to the state for casino operations. Now, the state has three options. They can sue the Tribe, go back to the bargaining table with the Tribe or accept the loss of revenue and move on.
The first option probably isn’t a good one for the state if it’s true that they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Given that the judge already cited with the Tribe, it’s likely there’s more truth to their allegations than not. It’s also hard to see the state just accepting the loss of revenue and move on with complete uncertainty about gaming in the state and the potential for future lawsuits from the Seminoles if the state attempts to act independently of the compact. You would think this move is the one to get the state back to the table to hammer out a deal in a serious way. And the desire is there. Governor DeSantis is on board with a reworked deal that also includes the expansion of sports gambling at existing tracks around the state and bets at professional sports venues. The issue is time.
This year’s state session is over and next year is a long way away. What happens next? We’ll wait, watch and see but there’s certainly going to be a lot more to this story. The odds are that it’ll result in a lot more gambling across the state and more revenue in the pockets of the Seminoles.
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