Florida Governor Rick Scott and Seminoles

Newly released documents show a $2 billion gaming proposal between Florida Governor Scott and the Seminoles. (Image: AP)

The Seminole Indian tribe is one of the major players in Florida’s gambling scene, and with its current compact with the state set to expire in 2015, Governor Rick Scott has been in talks to craft a new agreement between the state and the tribe. The newly revealed documents show that the two sides were close to a deal that could have been the largest tribal compact in United States history.

According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, Florida Governor Rick Scott’s staff was almost to a deal with the Seminole Indian tribe last spring that would have given the tribe several concessions in exchange for $2 billion in guaranteed payments to the state over seven years. The agreement was a major issue this spring, as Florida legislators were considering an overhaul of the state’s gaming industry from top to bottom.

More Gaming Rights, Protection Against Casinos

In the documents, Scott offers significant benefits in exchange for the guaranteed money, which would far eclipse the $1 billion over five years that the Seminoles paid in their 2010 compact with the state. Florida would have allowed the tribe to begin offering new games, such as roulette and craps, at their casinos in South Florida, while also allowing them to build a new casino in Fort Pierce (subject to approval by state legislators). If that casino wasn’t approved, the expanded gambling would also have been allowed at the tribe’s Immokalee casino.

In addition, the compact would have offered the Seminoles more protection against private casinos. While the possibility of developers building resort casinos in the state has been raised recently, the compact would have included a clause that would have made it costly for the state to approve any such casinos before the agreement expired.

Deal Hinged on Legislative Support

At one point, it appeared to be close to a done deal. In April, Scott and his staff talked to legislative leaders about holding a special session in order to approve a new compact. However, leading lawmakers wouldn’t commit to approving a deal without looking over the details on their own, and many other gaming interests were ready to lobby against the deal.

Had the deal gone through, it would have created some eye-catching headlines for the governor’s office. Many of the documents examined by the AP featured phrases like “largest guarantee ever,” and one estimate predicted that the deal could be worth as much as $15 billion over the next 30 years.

The documents were released by the Scott administration after an AP request four months ago. While the numbers are definitely going to generate plenty of buzz, though, government officials say they’ll have no impact on future negotiations.

“There is no deal, so none of your documents are relevant,” said Scott spokesman Frank Collins. “The compact expires in 2015 and the Legislature and other stakeholders will play important roles throughout this process. As such, the governor will take the time that’s needed to get the best deal for Florida.”

The Seminoles also agreed that the documents won’t constrain future talks with the state.

“Everything is still on the table when negotiations resume,” said Seminole spokesman Gary Bitner.