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.

Florida Casino to Open $5 Blackjack Tables…Finally

For as long as there has been blackjack in the state of Florida, $5 blackjack tables have not been a common find. But then we are talking pre-legal, compact approved blackjack within the state. Now that there is a compact between the Seminole tribe and the state of Florida giving the Seminoles a five year exclusivity to blackjack, the layout of the blackjack landscape is changing. For the better.

This coming Friday, August 20th, the first twenty four hour, seven days per week $5 blackjack tables will open at the Seminole Casino Hollywood.

The Seminole Casino Hollywood is not a new casino. It has been around for the last thirty years. But this is the first big event for this casino in several years. And it is all thanks to the exclusivity on blackjack that the Seminoles now enjoy, which went into effect this past July.

The opening of the new twenty four hour, seven days per week $5 blackjack tables will begin with speeches made by Seminole Gaming CEO, Jim Allen. There will also be speeches made by Seminole leaders. Once the speeches are done with, Seminole Casino Hollywood General Manager Adrian Fox will then say the magic words to get the gambling underway: “Guests place your bets.”

And speaking of guests there are several notable VIPs of the eighty four that will be present to break in the new blackjack tables this coming Friday. Among them is former NFL star Zach Thomas, Jimmie Walker and Alfonso Ribeiro, as well as other local media personalities. And naturally Seminole Tribal Council members will also be at the tables to play the first hand at these twelve new $5 blackjack tables.

More Blackjack for Pennsylvania

On Thursday of last week three brick and mortar casinos in western Pennsylvania opened the blackjack tables, drawing patrons away from the long haul drive to Atlantic City to enjoy some blackjack.

Unfortunately for Atlantic City the run of Pennsylvania casinos is not at an end yet. This past Tuesday, July 13th, saw the opening of blackjack tables in three eastern Pennsylvania casinos.

Blackjack players all over Pennsylvania are very excited with the addition of their favorite casino game in six casinos. This follows months of back and forth political arguments earlier this year about whether or not the State would allow table games like blackjack, roulette and craps to be added to their game offerings. But the demand was there and the income to the State in gaming taxes was needed. Everyone wins. Well, except for Atlantic City.

For decades Atlantic City was the mecca of East Coast gambling in the United States. But with the down turn in the economy and a lack of funds trickling down the government hill, states began looking at other ways to bring in money.

Pennsylvania is not the only state to look to gambling. Florida recently settled a long standing dispute with the Seminole tribe about blackjack there. Florida will be making $1.5 billion over the next five years from their deal with the Seminoles.

But with the addition of blackjack to the casino games at the Rivers, Meadows and Presque Isle Downs casinos in western Pennsylvania and the Mohegan Sun, Mount Airy and Hollywood casinos in eastern Pennsylvania could spell even more trouble for Atlantic City.

Not only will the time-honored East Coast gambling destination be competing with these six improved casinos next door, they might also be competing against online gambling. New Jersey is looking at legalizing online gambling for New Jersey residents that would make the competition even greater for Atlantic City.

While Pennsylvania blackjack players are quite happy with the new table games in six of their casinos, we shall have to see how Atlantic City fares over the next few years. Will it be able to keep itself afloat or will it sink in the ocean that is the gambling industry.

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 House Signs Off on Seminole Compact

It looks like this compact with the Seminoles is going to happen. With a 74-39 vote, the compact passed through the House on Monday. The Florida Senate has already approved the compact with a 29-9 vote. Now all that’s left is for Governor Charlie Crist to sign off and then it’s off to the federal Department of Interior, who oversees all state-tribal gambling compacts in the U.S.

And the good news is that Crist has already said that he will sign the compact despite the fact that the Seminole’s payments will no longer go to education—something that Crist was strongly in favor of. To make the Legislature happy the money is now going into the state’s general revenue fund. This is disappointing because the education of Florida’s children should have come first.

In the next fiscal year this compact will put $435 million into the state’s budget, which is much in need of the money.

The compact will allow the Seminoles to have blackjack in their casinos. Originally the tribe wanted blackjack in all seven of their casinos, but they compromised with the deal that blackjack would be allowed at five of their casinos. The Seminoles will also have the full market on Vegas-style slot machines, except in Broward and Miami-Dade counties because voters in those counties had already approved those games.

But not everyone is happy to see the Seminoles get their blackjack.

The pari-mutuels are one such group. They feel that with the Seminoles having the only blackjack tables and the almost monopoly on the Vegas-style slots will leave the tracks unable to compete. However, the compact allows pari-mutuels to extended hours and offer higher poker limits.

Other opponents include the religious conservatives who worry about the morals of the citizens of Florida. Rep. Charles Van Zant is quoted saying that the compact “is evil and brings evil upon Floridians” and that “it damages our faith, our families and our freedoms.”

But what he is failing to see is that the allowance of blackjack and the Vegas-style slots will provide a boost to gambling tourism—and this is a state that doesn’t have a state income tax because of its tourism.

Florida also has extensive gambling offerings, proving that residents are okay with gambling. Florida is home to eight Indian casinos, a state Lottery with 13,000 retailers, gambling cruises and twenty seven pari-mutuels.

With all the gambling that is done in Florida it is about time that some of that money be returned to the state to support it, even if it isn’t going into education. The pari-mutuels and religious conservatives had better get prepared because it looks like blackjack is going to be legal in Florida.

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.

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.