Seminole Compact impasse lingers, gambling woes mount

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On Thursday, the House Gaming Control Subcommittee workshopped various gambling issues, including a discussion of the faltering Seminole Compact.

Lou Trombetta, Director of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, addressed the accord with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, a central tenet of Florida gambling that has lapsed.

“As of May last year, the tribe stopped paying … $25 million a month. The tribe has not paid since May of last year,” Trombetta said.

Rep. Randy Fine questioned whether the tribe could offer Class III gaming — a federal designation that includes blackjack, slot machines and sports betting — without those compacts going both ways, and Trombetta said that, while not a legal scholar, he shares that read.

Fine also questioned why the Seminoles have exclusivity when the vast majority of compacts around the country do not.

Engagement between the Tribe and the state has been scant: a meeting in early October, but it was not substantial.

“What good is the compact today … without payments,” asked Rep. David Santiago, who chairs the committee.

“It’s still in effect to some extent, but to what extent is an open question,” Trombetta said. “They allow my team to go in and conduct business.”

In 2009, the tribe signed a deal with Florida that provides a revenue sharing agreement. The Seminole Compact was paying the state somewhere north of $340 million annually, or about 12.5% of their gross gaming revenues.

However, it doesn’t appear movement on restoring that revenue stream is imminent.

The Seminole Compact discussion kicked off a larger talk about the post-Amendment 13 world of casino gambling.

Amendment 13 allowed dog tracks to phase out racing and still have gambling.

Carey Theil of GREY2K USA noted that race tracks are phasing out in a “staggered” way, allowing for gradual adoptions of the animals, with 200 fewer than a year ago.

“In places where greyhound racing is ending, we’re seeing positives,” Theil said, including redevelopment of facilities into affordable housing or mixed-use retail.

Michael Glenn, of Palm Beach Kennel Club, vowed to “keep racing until the end.”

“We’re going to lose 70 to 80 jobs,” Glenn said, once the racing is phased out.

“We’re looking for anything and everything to keep us in business … once Amendment 13 goes into effect,” Glenn urged.

Peter Berube, of Tampa Bay Downs, said “Amendment 3 really cut the legs out” of his horse track.

“Purse enhancements,” a factor of casino gambling that sweetens the pot at dozens of other tracks, are not allowed for Berube’s casino.

“It’s going to be a challenge in the future,” Berube warned.

John Sowinski, of the anti-gambling “No Casinos” group, says that most people just want to “hold the line” on gambling.

However, with existential challenges afflicting the high-powered and lobbied-up gambling industry, expect aggressive moves to preserve revenue streams.

Designated player games, central to some industry revenue streams, are a sticking point for the Seminole Compact, Sowinski said.

Jamie Shelton of bestbet, whose facility has those games, said giving up designated player games for $350 million is a “bad deal.”

“Designated player games have been played in Florida since 2012,” Shelton noted. “Don’t be punitive toward us … for the benefit of one group.”

Isadore Havenick of the Magic City Casino agreed.

“None of us should be penalized so that they could benefit,” Havenick said. “For them to give you pennies on the dollar and just put us out of business is insane.”

John Sowinski of No Casinos noted that legislators will see “creative ways to push the limit or get around Amendment 3,” which requires voter approval to expand gambling.

A veteran Tallahassee hand on this issue, it’s hard to see him being wrong.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com


8 comments

  • steve grabarczyk

    December 12, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    Funny Izzy and others, that this is EXACTLY what happened to the Dogs. On another note, why does this rag keep going to Carey Theil for quotes, he is going to be exposed as a fraud in the upcoming Federal Suit on amendment 13. You media types would rather quote a shill who cant tell the truth.

    Isadore Havenick of the Magic City Casino agreed.

    “None of us should be penalized so that they could benefit,” Havenick said. “For them to give you pennies on the dollar and just put us out of business is insane.”

  • Michael

    December 12, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    I find it really funny how all of the race tracks the have designated player games knowing it is completely illegal as defined by law and flaunt their actions in the face of everyone have the nerve to say in applied words “HOW DARE THE STATE AND THE SEMINOLES PENALIZE US FOR CONDUCTING AN ILLEGAL GAMBLING OPERATION”… The racetracks should be fined up the wazoo like any other criminal who doesnt follow the law… The tracks owners think they are privileged businesses and have rights over others.. The track owners should get with the idea that your business is dead and also voted out..

  • Renee

    December 12, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    I simply have to ask….. Does Thiel have some financial interest in this publication that they feel it necessary to include some quote of his, even though hes just a mouthpiece for a 501(c)4 lobbying group that supposedly has no interest in gambling?

    • A.G. Gancarski

      December 13, 2019 at 1:42 pm

      He was on the panel and got a few lines like everyone else. Your beef may be with the subcommittee chair who gave him speaking time.

      • Renee

        December 17, 2019 at 8:15 am

        Thank you for this clarification. Do you happen to know who the subcommittee chair’s name? I’d like to ask the reason he was there.

  • Crystal

    December 13, 2019 at 10:29 am

    I can’t believe Izzy Havenick said that. Guess y’all should have cared more about the dog racing. 🤷‍♀️

  • Melly

    December 14, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Awww poor poor Izzy…NOT!!! How does it feel?

  • Robert Johannes

    December 14, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Give the dog and horse tracks Slot Machines

Comments are closed.


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