The Florida legislature last month reached a convoluted agreement with the Seminole tribe and the state racetracks that gives benefits to each in exchange for a large payment from the tribe.
The two houses of the legislature had wildly diverse bills that greatly expanded gaming (Senate) or dramatically shrank it (House). The final agreement lands somewhere in the middle, and like all good compromises, probably pleases no one.
After 11th-hour budget wars and threats from Governor Charlie Crist to kill some budget items, the bickering legislative bodies each got some of what they wanted, as did major stakeholders including the Seminole tribe, South Florida’s parimutuels and racetracks around the state.
Some of the details:
• The Seminole Hard Rock Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa keep their card games and Class III slot machines.
• The tribe can offer no-limit poker at all of its seven casinos, but the banked card games of blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer can only be offered at its facilities in Broward and Hillsborough counties.
• The tribe will make an annual $150 million payment to the state for 15 years. Payments can be reduced if the state authorizes the same card games and Class III games, and the tribe’s net win drops below $1.37 billion.
• The state’s other racetracks may also offer no-limit poker, but are banned from offering VLTs without the approval of the state legislature and local referendums.
• The tax rate for parimutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward counties will drop from 50 percent to 35 percent.
• Hialeah Racetrack in Miami will reopen with no-limit poker and quarter horse racing. Slot machines will be permitted in two years.
• The minimum gambling age at Florida racinos/casinos is set at 21.