State economists: Rebooted gaming compact to give $344M boost to state coffers

Close up of dice rolling on a craps table. Random concept.
Florida could net $4.4 billion over the next six years, if the courts continue to uphold the compact.

The slots are clanking again, cards are turning and dice are tumbling. That means the money from the Seminole Gaming Compact is flowing into the state again.

The Seminole Tribe began sending compact-related revenue payments to the state in January, following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to stay a lower court order approving the compact. So far this year the Tribe has sent $120 million to the state.

In total, Florida will receive nearly $344 million from the Tribe by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, state economists project. Economists on the Revenue Estimating Conference met last week and project the state to receive $4.43 billion over the next six years.

At the same time, lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to spend nearly all the compact revenues on environmental programs.

The Florida Senate unanimously passed SB 1638 on Thursday, which would divert 96% of the compact revenues into programs that protect wildlife, preserve state parks and improve water quality.

Under the bill up to $100 million would go to the Florida Wildlife Corridor to conserve lands to keep important habitats connected; $100 million would go to the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for land management projects; and $100 million would go to DEP’s Resilient Florida Trust Fund, which provides local grants to protect key assets from sea level rise and climate change.

The House version of the bill (HB 1417) is ready for a floor vote in that chamber.

But that money is not a sure bet. The legal challenge brought by some parimutuels alleging the compact violates state and federal law upended the monthly payments for a time, and could do so again as appeals at the U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court are still pending.

The precarious nature of the revenue led economists to count the money as one-time, non-recurring funds in the budget.

Gray Rohrer


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