A consortium of Florida parimutuels is seeking to challenge the Seminoles tribe’s stranglehold on casino gaming in the state by offering lawmakers the one thing guaranteed to make them sit up and take notice: cold, hard cash.
According to industry insiders who spoke to Florida Politics early Wednesday, the group is working on a plan that would increase the amount of revenue they share with the state to a sum equal to or more than the Seminole’s contributions.
In return, the state would grant them the right to offer slot machines in counties that had approved them in local referenda.
Beyond the Seminoles’ Hard Rock-branded casinos, the only venues in Florida authorized to operate slots are the parimutuels of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, such as the Mardi Gras and Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach and the Isle Casino in Pompano Beach.
This is down to a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004 that authorized the machines specifically for those counties.
Eight Counties Voted for Slots
Eight other counties have since OK’d slots in county-wide referenda, but with little effect. Without new legislation enacted by the legislature, or the constitutional authorization of a state-wide referendum, slots remain illegal, and the generally gamble-shy House of Representatives and politically powerful Seminoles want to keep it that way.
As it stands, the Seminoles have the monopoly on slots everywhere but in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and the exclusive right to offer house-banked games like blackjack throughout Florida, for which they make payments to the state.
The Seminoles are currently in negotiations to agree a new compact after the last one expired in 2015 and there’s pressure on the legislature to get it done this year.
Next November, Florida residents will vote on an amendment, largely bankrolled by Disney and the Seminoles, that would allow the public to decide on any gambling expansion in the state. Lawmakers warn that, if passed, it would remove their bargaining powers in negotiations, effectively handing the Seminoles an unassailable gambling monopoly.
As such, the tribe is in no hurry to get anything done, but that might change if the challenge from the parimutuel venues gains momentum.
If the parimutuels believe they can match the $200 million to $300 million a year the state wants from the Seminoles, the fear of losing exclusivity could spur the tribe into action and hand bargaining power back to the state.