Draft Seminole Compact Deal Would Include Sports Betting, Craps, Roulette, But Will Be Tough to Pass, Governor Says

Posted on: April 24, 2019, 08:10h. 

Last updated on: April 24, 2019, 08:10h.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has a copy of a “draft outline” of a potential new gaming compact, thrashed out over the past few weeks during negotiations between the Seminole Tribe and Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-10th).

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – no fan of gambling expansion – is scrutinizing the legal nuances of the proposed Seminole compact, but with ten days left in the session and lots of stakeholders to please, it’s going to be a heavy lift, he says. (Image: Saul Loeb/AFP)

Few people have seen the document, but sources have told local media they believe the deal would allow the Seminoles to offer sports betting, while acting as “a hub” for sports betting operations at parimutuel venues.

This suggests the parimutuels would act as affiliates of the Seminoles, forging a new commercial relationship between two segments of Florida’s gambling industry that have rarely seen eye to eye.

The deal would reportedly also permit in-play betting at professional sports arenas, presumably with the Seminoles taking a cut.

$400 Million Deal

The so-called player-designated games offered at many of the parimutuels have also been at the heart of negotiations. The Seminoles argue that the games have violated their exclusivity on banked games.

When the tribe’s original compact expired in 2015, it refused to sign another because it claimed the state was in breach of the original agreement for allowing player-designated games, which it said were banked games in disguise.

In 2016, a federal judge agreed, granting the tribe the right to offer banked games until 2025, giving it the upper hand in any future negotiations.

Although short on details, the new agreement reportedly alters the games at parimutuels to the Seminoles’ satisfaction, which will make them vastly less profitable.

In return, the parimutuels will be permitted to “decouple,” which means they will no longer be required to operate a certain quota of racing or jai alai as a condition of their right to spread other kinds of gambling. Many venues find the quotas burdensome and unprofitable.

The agreement purportedly allows the tribe to offer craps and roulette in return for payments to the state of around $400 million per year, which could gradually increase to $500 million a year, The Miami Herald reports.

That’s more than the $350 million the Seminoles paid under the terms of their previous compact, and which they have continued to pay under the terms of an interim deal agreed with former governor Rick Scott.

‘Serious Lift’

DeSantis – who has professed to be no fan of gambling expansion and has certain reservations about sports betting – told The Miami Herald that his week that his office is scrutinizing the draft agreement, looking into its legalities. But with just a week and a half to go until the end of the legislative session, the deadline is tight.

While Senate leaders are behind the deal, parimutels and the lawmakers who represent them are likely to be less enthused.

“That’s going to require some serious lift,” DeSantis said.

The deal may also need to be authorized by public referendum, following the approval of an amendment last November that gives voters the final say on gambling expansion – although Senate leaders are banking that sports betting, craps, and roulette do not amount to gambling expansion since class III casino gaming was already legal in the state.