Key Florida Senate panel OKs Seminole Gaming Compact

desantis, ron - seminole tribe
The measure next heads to the Senate floor.

A Senate panel has given its approval to a measure approving and implementing the 2021 Seminole Gaming Compact.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 18-1 Monday to approve the bill (SB 2A) implementing Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ Compact with the Seminole Tribe and an addendum signed Monday. That change removes online casino gambling and delays sports betting a few months.

The measure next heads to the Senate floor. House panels are expected to give their approval to a similar bill in the House (HB 1A) Monday and Tuesday.

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, who raised several questions around the sports betting provisions, was the lone vote against the bill.

Current law allows the Tribe to offer slots, banked card games, raffles and drawings. The Compact would expand that authorization to craps, roulette, fantasy sports contests and sports betting.

The addendum marks a major blow to gaming enthusiasts and those hopeful to broaden gambling in the state. Many lawmakers shared concerns regarding online casinos. Instead, the Tribe can come back in three years and try to strike a new deal again.

Sen. Travis Hutson, the St. Johns County Republican selected to shepherd the series of gaming bills through the Senate, said the provision gave heartburn to some members.

“We didn’t want to jump into the deep end,” Hutson told Florida Politics about the addendum. “We wanted to dip our toes in the water for sports betting before we went full online.”

Sports betting survives, but gets delayed until Oct. 15.

The Tribe would control the front end of any sports betting app in Florida. Industry players like FanDuel and DraftKings could contract to run the back end of the app.

That option hasn’t assuaged the fears of some in the industry. However, in an attempt to dispel that perception, Chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO Seminole Gaming Jim Allen told senators he has proposals from FanDuel and DraftKings and has been in conversations with Barstool and others.

“The Tribe is 100% interested and willing to create a business relationship with those companies, whether it be through the pari-mutuels or directly.

No Casinos President John Sowinski, who wrote the 2018 constitutional amendment requiring voters to approve any new casino gambling in Florida, has vowed to contest the Compact in court. The agreement with the Tribe violates that amendment, he argues.

“We just think that this opens doors and attempts to find creative ways around really what the intent of voters was, which was to lock the door and hold the key themselves,” he told senators.

Amendment 3 allows the state and tribes to negotiate compacts “for the conduct of casino gambling on tribal lands,” but Sowinski maintained that the language only applies to games taking place on tribal property, not on cell phones throughout Florida.

“Those words matter. They matter not just to folks in Washington D.C. in the Department of Interior who are going to be reading them, but they also matter to the voters of Florida. That has a meaning in Florida law, above and beyond its meaning in federal law,” Sowinski said.

Sowinski rejected the notion that the constitutional amendment would allow people to place sports wagers on cell phones anywhere in the state, as long as the servers are located on tribal lands.

“That dog don’t hunt,” he said.

The Compact guarantees billions for Florida over the next few years and more to come through the Compact’s 30 years it will be in effect.

“By not voting for the compact, the state is walking away from a minimum of $4 billion between now and 2030,” Allen said.

Before voting in favor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer commended the Seminole Tribe for its effort to strike a deal in good faith. Attempts to chip away at parts of the deal are testament to that deal, he added.

“I think we see again the reason why (it’s) the only tribe that remains unconquered to this day,” he said.


The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. Republished with permission.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • tjb

    May 17, 2021 at 5:08 pm

    This bill allows sports betting from our personal computers or mobile phones because the computer servers receiving the betting information is on tribal land. Currently, some betting games are allowed on Seminole lands, such as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, but the bettors need to be on this land.

    This bill is a devious attempt to get around the law by saying a server receiving information from a remote location is the same as if I was betting in person at the Hard Rock Casino.

    Using this logic, it appears that as Floridians, we can now download and trade child sexual abuse materials (Child Porn) legally if the server is located in a place where it is not against the law to do so. This is great news for the dirtbags that are presently downloading and trading such material. It would no longer be a felony but a legal activity. Sadly the state is willing to sell the innocence of our children for a few extra dollars.

  • PeterH

    May 18, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Let the Republican grifting proceed as expected. Media investigators need to stay on top of elected officials receiving kickbacks.

Comments are closed.


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