Florida Senate President Wants to Act on Sports Betting, Seminole Tribe Compact

Uncertainty surrounding gambling revenue in Florida is growing as a multi-million deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe expires in a few months and the Legislature cannot act on any gambling-related issued without voters’ approval

Florida Senate President Bill Galvano said earlier this week that he wants to take action on the potential legalization of sports betting and a new revenue-sharing compact with the Seminole Tribe. The tribe operates Hard Rock-branded casinos in South Florida.

State lawmakers and tribal officials have negotiated a number of deals over the years, and their latest compact is set to expire in May. Under that deal, the Seminole Tribe contributed an estimated of $343 million in gaming revenue per year to the state in exchange for the exclusive right to operate blackjack and other table games within Florida limits.

Over the years, negotiations between tribal officials and state lawmakers have not always taken place smoothly. The Seminole Tribe threatened a few years ago to end its revenue contributions to Florida, arguing that the state had failed to act against non-tribal card rooms around the state that had offered the so-called player-banked table games and had thus breached the terms of their compact.

It is to be seen whether a deal will be stricken between the two parties in a less troublesome manner this time around.

Commenting on the matter, Florida’s newly sworn-in Senate President Bill Galvano said Wednesday at an Associated Press event in Tallahassee that they are “in a dubious state right now” and that “it is worthy of [them] to create stability” with the Seminoles.

Sports Betting Discussions

Senate President Galvano also discussed the possibility to bring legal sports betting to the state. The lawmaker pointed out that there is an opportunity for the practice in Florida. Sports betting activities are already conducted in the state, Mr. Galvano said earlier this week, but those being unregulated do not bring any revenue to the coffers.

While the Senate’s top official did not provide details about what he thinks would happen once the legislative session kicks off on March 5, he revealed that he has directed a Senate committee to review sports betting and craft a draft legislation by the end of the month.

However, even if a sports betting legislation gains traction in the state Legislature, it will be voters who will have the final say on the legalization of the practice. Florida residents approved last November constitutional amendments that gave them the power over any gambling-related issues. In other words, any decision related to casino and gambling activities conducted within the state’s borders will have to be approved via statewide referenda.

Senate President Galvano said earlier this week that despite operating in “a different world post-constitutional amendments”, the Legislature still has a chance to bring legal sports betting.

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