More Opposition to the Seminole’s Blackjack

While the most recent bill to settle the long-standing conflict between the State of Florida and the Seminoles works its way through the House and soon the Senate, more voices are coming forward to cry out against the Seminole’s exclusivity.

If the bill runs its course through the House, the Senate and finally to Governor Charlie Crist, the Seminoles would have to pay $1.5 billion over five years to have exclusivity to games like blackjack. There would be an immediate payment to the state of $435 million. And with a $3.2 billion gap in the Florida budget the money is needed—particularly for education.

However there are two groups that are very much against the Seminoles winning this exclusivity—one for greed and one for the good of our own morale well-being.

The first group is comprised of the pari-mutuels of Florida. The dog and horse tracks have been a part of Florida’s gambling culture for decades. But the last few years there has been a decline in interest at the dog and horse tracks.

This could be for a couple of reasons. 1. The people are no longer interested in betting on dog and horse races, and have been attracted to the Vegas-style games like blackjack that can now be found within their own state—no more travelling to Vegas or Atlantic City for the casino experience. 2. With the increase in awareness of animal abuse, many people feel that the treatment of dog and horses in the races are not treated humanely, and that the races themselves are inhuman.

Pari-mutuels fear losing business to the tribe casinos. They fear that they won’t be able to compete. Unfortunately, times change and people’s interest changes. While the tracks site that they will be forced to cut jobs due to a loss of income thanks to the Seminoles and their blackjack tables, the tribe casinos will be in the position to create new jobs under this compact.

Now the other group of opponents that are trying to save us from ourselves. Members of Florida Family Action and the Florida Baptist Convention, along with other opponents, want the entire deal scrapped, saying that offering Vegas-style games like blackjack will increase family problems through addictions and will increase crime.

But what they’re forgetting is that Florida is at odds with the Seminoles, a sovereign nation. And they can’t be at odds forever. The battle over the Seminoles exclusivity to blackjack has to end because Florida can’t be at odds with a sovereign nation within its borders.

There is also Florida’s history of gambling to consider. The state has had dog and horse tracks for decades. Floridians have been gambling for decades. They want to gamble and forcing them to outside of the state will mean a loss of income for Florida.

It seems that these morally opposed groups feel that the only way to gamble is often and with large sums of money. Apparently they haven’t heard of playing as a form of entertainment or of low-stakes games.

And what about the much needed money for the state? Are Florida’s children supposed to suffer because a handful of groups want to tell us what is good for us?

But the opponents to the Seminoles having exclusivity to blackjack will have to come to terms with it because it seems this compact is going to go through and be signed. It appears that Florida knows its children need their education.

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.

Seminoles Making a Deal?

It looks like the state of Florida and the Seminoles just might be reaching a deal that everyone can live with. Maybe.

This deal comes down to compromise.

From the looks of it the Seminoles would get to keep their exclusivity to blackjack and Vegas-style slots. But the pari-mutuels would get extended hours of operation, increased buy-ins at their poker tables and bingo style betting machines; there’s also the possibility that in the future pari-mutuels might get video lottery terminals as well.

Hopefully this would make everyone happy since the Seminoles would be getting their exclusivity. Having exclusivity is important to the Seminoles because the profits from their casinos are a very large chunk of the tribe’s livelihood.

The only hand up seems to be the video lottery terminals. The Seminoles want exclusive rights to those as well. But the pari-mutuels want them so that they have the feeling that they could compete with the Seminoles in terms of drawing a gambling crowd.

But a deal is going to have to be reached. The pari-mutuels are getting restless and the Seminoles are getting more and more irritated—both mostly from the three years it’s taken to even come close to a deal. And the state of Florida needs the income.

If this deal is agreed upon by the state and the Seminoles, it would put $450 million into the state’s budget. The money comes from licensing fees mostly. But Florida needs that money. Especially since the Seminoles’ contribution is allotted for education—and the money is badly needed for the state’s education programs and teachers’ salaries.

At this point we need to sit back, cross our fingers and hope that exclusivity to blackjack and slots is going to be enough for the Seminoles to agree.