Blackjack and Online Gambling Could be Effected by Florida Elections

Yesterday Florida hosted their primary elections for the upcoming November general election. Up for grabs in the general election will be a seat in the Senate and the governor’s chair. And the winners of both could have a big impact on the future of blackjack in the state of Florida and on online gambling for the nation.

Naturally the Republican and Democrat split can be also put like this: anti-gambling and pro-gambling.

The Republican candidate for governor is Rick Scott, who is not in favor of expanding the casino offerings in Florida. This could mean that when the five year blackjack exclusivity in the Seminole compact expires, Scott might not allow for further negotiations, possibly pulling blackjack out from under the Seminoles. He could also pull back the extended hours and higher limit on poker that pari-mutuels now have.

On the other side is Alex Sink, the Democrat candidate. Overall, the Democrats have a more liberal view of gambling within Florida, seeing it as a source of income and an addition to the tourist industry, which has been down—it seems that Disney is monetarily out of reach for some families and that Harry Potter is not drawing as much tourism as expected.

And there is a third governor candidate—Charlie Crist is running in the Independent party. And after his battle with state lawmakers over the Seminole compact we all know what his stance on blackjack and casinos in that state is. Maybe next time he will be able to definitely send the money to Education.

Let’s not forget the Senate race. This comes down to Marco Rubio, Republican, and Kendrick Meek, Democrat. And this race could have an impact on the future of legalizing online gambling and regulating it.

Rubio is strongly against online gambling. However, Meek, being a Democrat could vote in favor of Rep. Barney Frank’s bill to repeal UIGEA and set up a structure of regulating online gambling in the U.S. If Frank has to table his bill until next year, the Florida Senate seat will have an impact on what is looking like a close race to approve Frank’s bill.

Those in favor of online gambling and Floridian blackjack players will be keeping an eye on the upcoming November Florida general election.

Seminole Compact Takes Effect

It is July 1st and that means one thing for the Seminole Tribe. Well, okay, it means two things but as a blackjack player I am really only concerned about one of those things.

The Seminole compact that took a Tolkien amount of time to be agreed upon is now in effect. This means that blackjack tables are now legal in five of the seven Seminole casinos. Of those five brick and mortar casinos, three are located in Broward County, one in Immokalee and the fifth casino can be found in Tampa.

The debate on whether the Seminoles would be allowed to have blackjack tables had been an ongoing since 2007 when Governor Charlie Crist signed a compact with them that would allow them blackjack at all seven of their casinos. State legislature quickly said that was not legal.

Ever since the blackjack tables were alternately called legal and illegal. This past May the Seminoles, Crist and state legislatures finally came to an agreement: the Seminoles would be allowed exclusivity on blackjack with five casinos being allowed the tables. The Seminoles will also have a twenty year exclusivity on Vegas style slot machines. In exchange the Seminoles will be playing $1.5 million over five years.

Now if the deal is broken by pari-mutuels being allowed blackjack in less than five years or Vegas style slot machines in less than twenty years, the respective portion of the Seminoles’ payment to the state will cease.

Naturally the pari-mutuels were not pleased. As a result they will have higher limit poker tables, later hours of operation and some breaks when it comes to the taxes they are paying to the state.

This is definitely a good day in terms of casino news. So Florida blackjack players go celebrate the Seminoles’ success by playing a few rounds at one of the five casinos. Not a Floridian? Pack your bags, visit Disney and then hope over to Tampa and enjoy the blackjack!

Seminole Compact Done and Signed

Happy Cinco de Mayo for blackjack in Florida!

Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed the state’s compact with the Seminole tribe, bringing the compact into law. The compact was signed by the House of Representatives and the Florida Senate within the last couple of weeks. Getting those two bodies to sign a compact was the hard part. Once they had signed it many considered the compact done because Crist was already in favor of the Seminoles. But as of this morning it’s now official.

It’s taken the better part of the last few years, since 2007 in fact, to get the Seminoles and Florida’s legislature to agree on the compact terms. And it was to the benefit of the state to work something out as it would have not been good to be on bad terms with a sovereign nation within their own state lines.

With this compact the Seminoles, who originally were aiming at exclusive blackjack in all seven of their casinos, will have their sought-after exclusivity on blackjack, but will only be allowed to have blackjack in only five of their casinos: three in Broward County, one in Immokalee and one in Tampa. The exclusivity will last for five years, at which point the Seminoles and the legislature will go head-to-head again to determine the exclusivity of blackjack in Florida…again.

Also with this compact the Seminoles will have a twenty year exclusivity on Vegas style slots games.

So what is the cost for all this exclusivity? The Seminoles will be paying the state of Florida $1.5 billion over five years. Each yearly payment will cover the blackjack and the Vegas style slots. But if the state allows pari-mutuels or any other group blackjack in less than five years, or Vegas style slots in less than twenty years, the respective portion of the Seminoles’ payment will cease while they continue to pay for the exclusivity on the other.

Originally the money from the Seminoles was to be allotted for education, but the legislature wouldn’t agree to that. They wanted the money to go into Florida’s general fund. While Crist was sad to see the money go elsewhere, as are the parents of the state’s children, an agreement needed to be reached. Florida needs the money too badly.

So it’s in Florida’s interest to let the Seminoles do their thing for the next five years and twenty years. Crist was a happy man indeed to have succeeded in helping to work out an agreement between the legislature and the Seminoles.

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.

Florida Government Still Bickering Over Blackjack

I’m a little astounded by Florida’s Legislature. And I can say they defiantly must be on the side of all the pari-mutuels. Look at them: they are against allowing the Seminole tribe to expand their gambling offerings with blackjack tables, yet they are just fine looking at legalizing online gambling for Florida residents. But then the pari-mutuels would be able to host online gambling operations for the state. Not surprised at all.

And normally, other than wondering whether Florida will ever have blackjack tables at the tribal casinos, I wouldn’t really pay all the much attention to Governor Crist bickering with the Legislature. But there is an aspect to allowing blackjack tables that genuinely interests me: the money the Seminoles would be paying to have blackjack and a percentage of the proceeds would go into the state’s education budget—you know, to educate children.

So really what the Legislature, and Crist as well since it takes two to bicker, are really missing is that Florida has a chance to improve the education of Florida’s children. It’s not just the blackjack players in Florida that would miss out if the tribe and the Legislature can’t agree—it will be the children.

As a push, Crist is proposing a $535 million increase to the state’s education budget. And that money can easily come from the Seminoles paying for blackjack. But the Legislature, who seems to be favoring the pari-mutuels, are bulking at that increase, and saying that the increase would be nice, but are unwilling still to allow the Seminoles to have their blackjack.

It makes me want to ask the Legislature if they’re really okay letting the education of Florida’s children suffer for whatever incentive there is in fighting Crist and the Seminoles. Thoughts anyone?

Florida Trying to Legalize Online Gambling

The last several months, Florida politicians and legislatures have been going back and forth with Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe about allowing table games at the tribal casinos. These are of course land based casinos. And the Seminoles want to exclusively offer table games to Floridians and tourists. Obviously racinos across Florida have issues with this.

But the taxes and fees that the Seminoles would be paying would be going into the State’s funds, specifically the education budget. But with the continued stalemate has resulted in no revenue from gambling going towards the State’s financial needs.

Thankfully other options are being examined.

Florida’s Legislative Office of Program Policy and Government Analysis (OPPAGA) is coming to the rescue. They will be presenting a review they have conducted on online gaming to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on this coming Tuesday, January 19th at 4pm—their time. They are trying to legalize online gaming—blackjack included—in the State.

With extra revenue needed to fill out the budget and the Seminoles, Crist and State Legislature still squabbling, it’s no surprise that another group has stepped up to the plate to try to find revenue. And with how popular online gaming this just might be a good source of income for Florida.

Blackjack fans, if Florida legalizes online gaming then it will provide much needed revenue. But it will also give the Seminoles a run for their money. Whereas Floridians and tourists would have to actually travel to the tribal casinos, any Floridian will be able to play from the comfort of their home. In other words it opens up the potential of generating more revenue.

But Florida isn’t the only state looking to the country’s citizens’ love of online gaming as a source of money to tap into. Recently Pennsylvania legalized table games—including blackjack—at their racinos and resorts. Kentucky is also allowing online gambling in a fashion.

But the point is that with revenue needed the States shouldn’t be too quick to turn their noses up at online gaming. This is now a popular form of entertainment and it’s best for the States to recognize it and tap into it.

To: The State of Florida, From: Blackjack Fans

This has been going on for awhile now. In the state of Florida the Seminole Tribe and state law makers are still in a stalemate about whether the Tribe should be allowed to have table games, including blackjack, in all seven of their casinos. I started following this closely. And then a little less closely. And a little less closely. Then it was just a part of my routine. The same things were being said over and over again.

Let me sum it up: In 2007 Florida Governor Charlie Crist stuck a compact with the Seminoles that allowed them to have table games. State law makers weren’t happy with Tribe casinos having what they viewed as a monopoly on table games within the state. Now, two years later, they’re still fighting over it. Like a tennis match. Back and forth. Specifically House Speaker Larry Cretul says that the governor had no such power to make such a deal with the Tribe. The Tribe says that the Supreme Court okay’s the compact and that they are operating within it. Florida says no, and the Seminoles say yes.

This morning I came across a news notice that Cretul wants the Tribe casinos shut down, saying that they are violating state law by continuing to operate without a compact. Again, the Tribe says that they are still operating within the 2007 compact. But what got me was here is this man, this House Speaker, that wants to cut off a source of much needed income for the state of Florida, money that can fund schools, money that can help to educate the state’s children.

He’s not alone either. Owners of dog racing tracks don’t want the Tribe operating either. They’re worried about losing business to the casinos because the Seminole casinos will have popular table games like blackjack and their race tracks won’t. What these dog track owners need to realize that while they might lose their customers that are at the tracks specifically to gamble, they will hold onto their fans who love to watch dogs run around a track. It seems like tracks owners don’t want to worry about competition. It’s almost like they want to be the only ones to offer gambling—which would give tracks the monopoly on gambling in Florida—this coming from track owners who believe that monopolies are bad.

Dog tracks are not Wal-Marts—they are not going to be able to offer every form of gambling avenue possible to gambling and blackjack fans. They can keep their dog races, which have their own following, and the Seminoles can have their table games like blackjack, which have a different following.

What everyone—Seminoles included—is that this state needs the money. Schools are suffering: teachers are being laid off, books are becoming out-dated, and schools are closing. Children are not receiving the knowledge they need to be productive members of society in a few years time. What these law makers, track owners and, yes, even the Seminoles need to be concerned about is the state’s children and their education, and not worry about how can line their pockets more.

I’m all for heading out to a casino and playing blackjack face to face with a dealer—sometimes you just need a break from online blackjack. But really what’s more important—profit or smarts? I’ll go with smarts, thanks. And while money for education comes from multiple sources, the Seminoles are willing to pay a couple million down to have the games and to keep contributing a good chunk of their profits from blackjack and other table games—and they designate that money to be put towards education. But the children’s interests first, guys and ladies.

I say if they’re willing to pay, let the Seminoles pay. Who are the state and track owners to say what is best for Florida gamblers? If we want to play, let us play. If the money I lose is going towards a teacher’s salary, show me to the blackjack tables! Let us play!