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Florida Seminoles and the Florida Bill for Destination Resorts

12 January 2011 by admin

This morning I brought up for discussion the bill that is being tossed around in Florida that would bring a big change to Florida casinos and gambling. And I am not talking about online gambling, although that option is also being discussed.

Being sponsored by Seminole Republican Dennis Jones is a bill that would allow a handful of large, established casino companies such as The Sands and The Wynn to bid on the opportunity to build four to five destination resorts in Florida. The idea behind these destination resorts and what the focus is being put on is to provide bigger and better convention space with shopping—oh, and casinos, those too. No, really, that is how it is being presented with a focus on the portions that will provide more jobs and hopefully bring conventioneers to the state.

But there is the matter of the casinos that these destination resorts will have and the fact that Florida is home to one of the Sovereign Nations—the Seminole tribe. They were a force to be reckoned with in history and they still are to this day. So one would think why of all the lawmakers in Florida is a Seminole sponsoring this bill? Would it not seem like something of a backstab to his tribe to support something that could take business—and money—away from his tribe’s interests?

The answer is that the Seminoles are not worried about these destination resorts as opposed to their compact with the state of Florida. That compact gives the Seminoles a five year exclusivity to blackjack in five of their seven casinos; the compact also gives the tribe a twenty year exclusivity on Vegas-style slot machines with a review of the slot machine terms to happen in five years.

According to Jones that because of those fives, the Seminoles are not worried about large casino companies coming into the state: “If we were looking at destination gaming, it would take four to five years to build one of these complexes out. It would not impact the compact until the first card would play and that would be three or four years down the road and we are going on our second year of the compact. So that is really a non-issue at this point as far as I can see it.”

It seems the idea is that if the destination resorts and their casinos go forward it would mean that, based on the time it would take to build them and furnish them, etc. it would be time for the state to sit down with the Seminoles to review the compact, at which point changes could be made if both sides are agreeable.

For Florida this would mean that the $1 billion made from the Seminoles as a result of the first five years of the compact is theirs to keep, with more money coming in from the Seminoles, like always, and new revenue coming in from the new destination resorts.

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