Lawmakers in Florida continue to struggle as they work on gambling issues, with a special session in the works to come to some type of agreement.
During the regular session, lawmakers in Florida were unable to come to an agreement when it comes to a comprehensive gambling bill. Because of this, lawmakers are currently considering a special session that will last two days, set to take place at the end of the month, to try and come to some kind of agreement involving the gambling industry. According to Senate President Bill Galvano, despite the upcoming special session, there is no agreement or recommendations in place for the meeting.
Legislators in Florida convened for a 60-day session on the 9th of January with two chambers having tabled a bill involving gambling earlier in the year but failing to be able to reach an agreement before March 9th, the adjourning date. It was then revealed that negotiations were ongoing with a special session planned.
House Speaker Richard Cocoran made his concerns known about the state budget and how gaming revenues could be lost without an agreement and this would hurt the state. The Seminole Tribe might not pay the state as they have in the past, which would mean the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. The tribe currently pays the state to have exclusive rights to the game of blackjack.
With a special session, the Legislature of the state would be able to introduce changes to the current gambling laws without the need of a resident vote. In November, residents of the state will be able to vote on an amendment to the constitution that would limit the power of legislators regarding gambling issues. The proposed amendment would reform the existing gambling laws of the stat to be approved by a voter’s majority.
Where Does the Seminole Tribe Stand?
According to the Tennessee Democrat, the Seminole Tribe has not been speaking with lawmakers in Florida since the negotiations of the special session began. The tribe is required to pay money each month to Florida based on a 2010 compact to then have exclusivity with blackjack games. A section of the compact expired back in 2015 and officials then threatened to stop these payments. The tribe felt that the state was in breach of their compact based on allowing non-tribal venues to offer designated player games.
The tribe still made their monthly payments and since July of 2015, have been discussing terms for a new compact. Yet, the two parties continue to be unable to reach a new agreement as to how the gambling industry should function.
Based on a settlement involving the blackjack litigation, the tribe was making payments until the 31st of March. This date marked a time when the tribe was no longer under the obligation of sharing revenue with the state.
In speaking for the tribe, attorney Barry Richard, stated that the Seminoles are not in a hurry to stop making payments as they depend on the economy of Florida. The attorney also stated that in return for being given additional exclusivity for more table games or a compact extension, the tribe would be willing to pay the state even more.
For now, the gambling industry of Florida is in a type of limbo. By the end of the month, we should see a special session take place and hopefully lawmakers will be able to come to some type of agreement to ensure the gambling industry continues to thrive in the state and that Florida will benefit.