The House has enlisted the help of a gaming expert to assist lawmakers as they take up a historic gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe.
The expert, George Skibine, will appear remotely at scheduled committee meetings to answer questions from lawmakers throughout the week.
Skibine, a lawyer, will also help lawmakers navigate federal laws and entities including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Department of the Interior.
Skibine served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior from 2008 to 2011, according to his LinkedIn profile.
“While there are many issues that this Legislature tackles Session after Session, gaming has not been one of them,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls said Monday.
Skibine comes on board as lawmakers take up a new gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe. The Compact, a 75-page document, will determine the long-term future of gaming in the state.
Lawmakers will also consider nine bills related to the Compact, dealing with a slew of gaming-related issues including regulation and enforcement.
Before meeting in Tallahassee, lawmakers attended meetings to better orient themselves with the subject. The courses covered the history of gaming in Florida, the present situation on gaming, and tribal compact details.
Leaders expect the state to see $2.5 billion in new revenue over the next five years and $6 billion through 2030 if the Compact is signed into law.
Still, even with the financial incentive and support from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Compact will not come easily.
House Minority Co-Leader Evan Jenne on Monday said an estimated 20 or more lawmakers are dead-set against expanding gaming in Florida.
Moreover, the compact would require approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior and would likely face a legal challenge related to a 2018 state constitutional amendment designed to require voter approval of gambling expansions.
A group called No Casinos is already threatening to challenge the Compact in court if it gets ratified
John Sowkinski, president of the group No Casinos and chair of the political committee that backed the constitutional amendment, said the Compact is a clear violation of Amendment 3.
While the amendment allows the state and tribes to negotiate compacts “for the conduct of casino gambling on tribal lands,” Sowinski maintained that the language only applies to games taking place on tribal property, and would not apply to the online sports betting — a key provision in the deal.
“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.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. Republished with permission.