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Seminole Tribe at Odds With State of Florida

April 15, 2019

Back in 2010, the Seminole Indian tribe signed a gambling accord with the state of Florida. It would be a misnomer to say the agreement was pleasing to both sides, but both sides agreed to abide by the provisions of the agreement until something better could be introduced.

The agreement was a five-year deal that expired in 2015. Prior to expiration date, both sides tried to hammer out a better deal that would serve to ease tensions into the future. When it became apparent futility would rule the day, then Governor Rick Scoot stepped in and convince both sides to abide by the prior agreement until such time a suitable agreement could be brought forward.

Flash forward to today, that very same agreement, though loosely enforced, is set to expire yet again in May of 2019. At this point, it's not clear if both parties are going to be able to work through their differences.

As could be expected, money sits at the core of the uneasiness. The state of Florida has been receiving a substantial influx of revenues from the Tribe's gaming operations since 2010. With annual revenues of between $250 million and $350 million coming into the state's coffers each year, the state has become reliant on those funds. This fact has not been lost on Tribe officials who are clearly looking for a more Tribe friendly agreement. The issue has reached the point where the state has already raised personal tax rates to secure the state's budget in the event a deal does not go through. 

To protect the Seminole's business interests revenue, Florida's state legislature has been obligated to keep other forms of gambling at bay to the benefit of the Seminole Tribe. That's the primary reason why state residents are unlikely to see the legalization of sports or online gambling anytime in the future. Essentially, the Seminole nation has been paying for exclusive rights to certain forms of gambling, including specific games of chance.

Back in 2016, Florida tested the bounds of its loose agreement when legislators authorized race tracks to offer blackjack in its respective "racinos." The Seminoles took the state to the State Supreme Court to block this new legislation and won. 

The problem facing the Seminoles now is a change in leadership. New Governor Ron DeSantis has made clear he intends to give more control over the gambling industry back to the residents. At this point, it would seem both sides are preparing for a long, contentious battle over gambling in Florida.

 


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