Seminoles and Florida Take a Step Forward

The Florida Legislature and the Seminole Tribe have taken a step forward in reaching an agreement in regards to the Seminoles’ blackjack tables and slot machines. The deal isn’t finalized yet, it still has to pass the House, the Senate and the tribal council. But considering it was the tribe and the Legislature that have been butting heads from the beginning (the deals signed in 2007 and 2009 between the Seminoles and Governor Crist were rejected by the Legislature), the fact that they have a signed agreement is very encouraging.

In this signed deal the Seminoles would be paying Florida $1.5 billion over five years. This will give them exclusive operation rights for blackjack in their Hollywood, Immokalee and Tampa casinos; there is also the option to add blackjack to the Seminole casino in Coconut Creek. It also gives them exclusivity over Vegas-style slot machines for twenty years.

The $1.5billion would be paid out in the following way:

$150 million for years one and two
$233 million for years three and four
$234 million for year five

But to balance out the benefits the Seminoles are getting for their blackjack and slots exclusivity, pari-mutuels would be allowed higher limits at their poker tables and extended hours. But pari-mutuels would also receive 350 video bingo machines and historic race machines—but those machines cannot operate like slot machines. If they do operate as such then the pari-mutuels would be stepping on the Seminoles’ toes.

At the end of five years the Legislature can allow the pari-mutuels to offer blackjack, but the Seminoles’ payment to the State would be lowered so that they are only paying for their exclusivity for slot machines. And if the Legislature allows for pari-mutuels to allow video lottery terminals outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties then the Seminole payments would cease.

Now my reasoning on this is that the Legislature is looking to make the most money for Florida. In light of that it would be wise in five years for the Legislature to make another deal with the Seminoles to keep their exclusivity for blackjack. The Seminole casinos will at that point be known as the place to go in Florida for blackjack; they can draw in the players which allows them to continue to make high payments to the State, which Florida needs.

Although we all know that the pari-mutuels will want more and more. But the thing to keep in mind is that the casinos are the Seminoles’ primary source of income for their tribe. Cutting of their exclusivity will hurt their relationship with Florida, and they could turn the Federal government to maintain their place in Florida.

But I have a funny feeling that in five years we’ll see another five years will see another long drawn out set of negotiations because the pari-mutuels will want more.