Florida Legislature All About Money

Florida is suffering from a $3.2 billion shortfall in its budget, which includes a very hard hit to education. The problem? Florida’s children risk a loss of teachers and programs, and even some scholarships.

With that in mind, Governor Charlie Crist made that his push behind the Seminole blackjack and slots compact in his talks with the state’s Legislature. He was known to say, “Do it for the children.”

The first two compacts that the Seminoles and state Legislature have squabbled over have both gone bust. Then all of a sudden here is a third compact and it’s heading for approval.

This third run at a compact would give the Seminoles five years of exclusivity for blackjack tables, and twenty years for Vegas-style slots; the only other places in Florida where slots can be found is in two counties in which voters had already approved Vegas-style slots within county lines. In exchange for this blackjack exclusivity the Seminoles are going to be paying Florida more than $1 billion dollars over five years.

However you can’t make everyone happy. And this time around it was the pari-mutuels who felt that they would be unable to compete with the Seminoles’ casinos if they were given exclusivity to blackjack and slots, even with higher poker limits and extended hours of operation. Initially it appeared that the Legislature was siding with the pari-mutuels. But the truth always comes out.

So what made this third compact agreeable to the state Legislature? It wasn’t the extensions or even the possible tax break for the pari-mutuels. The Legislature was never on the side of the pari-mutuels. What has been over-looked is where that $1 billion plus dollars for blackjack exclusivity are going. And it’s not going to the children.

The Legislature has been out for money the whole time. It seems its hang up didn’t have to do with the pari-mutuels feeling like the compact was unfair. It had to do with where the money was going. Change the money’s destination and the Legislature likes the compact now.

So where is the money from the Seminoles exclusivity to blackjack going?

It will be going into the state’s general revenue fund. That means that the state government *cough, cough* Legislature can decided how the money is to be spent. It’s a sad day when part of the government is willing to short fall their children’s education so that they can have power of this money.