Leaders of both the Florida House and the Florida Senate have now signaled their concerns regarding the gaming compact that the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Gov. Charlie Crist announced on August 31, 2009, making quick ratification of the plan during a special legislative session less likely than ever. Gov. Crist had urged legislators to approve the compact as quickly as possible, but Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach) quickly responded that an October special legislative session to consider the compact was not possible.
On September 22, 2009, House leadership made a November special session appear unlikely. Rep. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), Chair of the House Select Committee on Seminole Indian Gaming Compact Review, informed the members of his committee that they would not begin consideration of the compact until November 2009. Rep. Galvano said, “Although we are still reviewing the details and analyzing what the compact means, our initial review has confirmed the proposed compact substantially deviates from the direction authorized by the Legislature in a number of significant aspects.”
During the 2009 legislative session, legislators passed SB 788, which set out the parameters for a gaming compact and required legislative ratification of any compact that differed from those parameters. The compact as negotiated between the tribe and the governor differs from the plan authorized by the Legislature in several key areas:
- The Legislature wanted blackjack and other banked card games limited to two Seminole casinos in Broward County and one in Hillsborough County. The compact as negotiated allows blackjack at all seven Seminole casinos.
- The Legislature wanted to be able to expand authorizations for slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities beyond the current limitation to Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The compact gives the Seminole Tribe the exclusive authority to operate slot machines outside of those two counties.
- The Legislature wanted casinos regulated by the state agency that is already responsible for pari-mutuel law enforcement, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The compact provides for regulation by the Florida Department of Revenue.
Earlier in the month, Senate President Atwater sent Gov. Crist a nine-page list of questions regarding the details of the compact. Like the House, the Senate does not appear to be eager to move forward without further information.
Rep. Galvano stated that the goal of SB 788 was to balance the interests of the Seminole Tribe and the state, but he added that “if the latest compact is any indicator, balancing these interests to our satisfaction may prove to be impossible.” He described the compact in its current form as “not acceptable.”