Seminole Compact, gambling bills head to Gov. DeSantis’ desk

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Unlike most legislation, the Governor's signature isn't the final step.

One day after lawmakers wrapped up their agenda for the gaming Special Session, the Legislature sent the four bills passed this week to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Lawmakers submitted legislation (SB 2A) ratifying and implementing the Governor’s 30-year agreement with the Seminole Tribe on gambling and related topics. If approved, the Compact will bring in a guaranteed $500 million per year for the next five years and more than $6 billion by 2030.

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

Two of the bills (SB 4A & SB 6A) would establish the Florida Gaming Control Commission as the state’s lead law enforcement agency on gambling and create necessary public records protections around the agency’s investigations. Under the measure, a five-member committee — which must include an experienced lawyer, accountant and law enforcement member — would have criminal justice authority over gaming laws and pari-mutuel institutions such as card rooms and horse racing.

The final proposal (SB 8A) would make changes at racetracks and other gaming sites, allowing pari-mutuel facilities to convert solely to other forms of gambling. That offers operators some balance to the expansion of gambling being offered to the Seminole Tribe.

The House passed all four bills Wednesday, the day after the Senate passed the package.

In a statement after that bill’s passage, DeSantis thanked Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls and the Legislature for getting the Compact through.

“With this new Compact, the state will now see a large stream of reoccurring revenue to the tune of billions of dollars over the next few years. The deal will also create over 2,000 jobs,” the Governor said.

DeSantis has until June 4 to sign or veto the bills before they roll into law without his signature. If he doesn’t veto it, the next step will be to send the Compact to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which will have 45 days to sign off on the agreement under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

Sprowls told reporters Wednesday that he had not been in direct talks with the federal government regarding the Compact. The day before, Simpson told reporters he hoped the bill went far enough in modernizing gaming while still stopping at a point that could still win federal regulators’ approval.

“I think that you have to consider both edges of the sword,” Simpson said. “You have to consider the edges — did we push far enough to get enough money, or did we push too far and now we’ll get set down by the federal government?”

Another impending hurdle for the Compact is the lawsuit legislative leaders already consider inevitable.

No Casinos, the group that pushed for the creation of 2018’s Amendment 3, says the Compact violates that constitutional amendment. Allowing the Tribe to handle paid fantasy sports games is an expansion of gambling, the group argues, requiring voters to first approve the Compact before it can take effect.

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.


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