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New Seminole Compact Facing Pushback from Some Lawmakers

May 17th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

The Florida Legislature gaveled in for what is expected to be a quick special session to ratify the Governor’s new 30-year compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida Monday, but the session may not go as smoothly as hoped.

Efforts are already being made to ease some Republicans’ moral and economic objections that could put the deal in jeopardy.

On day one of the special session things were already moving fast at the Capitol.

Changes to the compact were announced promptly after gaveling in at 1 PM.

“I am holding in my hand an addendum to the Seminole Compact,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls announced to the chamber.

The two changes include delaying sports betting until October 15th and a cancelation of planned talks to allow for statewide online casino gambling.

“You know as Sheldon Adelson used to say, he liked the idea that you have to put on a pair of pants if you want to go and gamble,” said Representative Randy Fine who helped negotiate the revised deal with the Governor and the Tribe.

Still, some members have reservations.

“Never do business with just one vendor,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes.

Brandes takes issue with giving the tribe exclusive rights to fantasy sports betting.

“This is basically a monopoly that you’re providing to one entity for 30 years,” said Brandes.

For others like Representative Clay Yarborough, moral objections to gambling are at play.

“The effect of gambling on individuals could have the same effect as alcohol and crack,” said Yarborough.

With some republicans already vowing to vote no, bipartisan support will be necessary to secure the supermajority needed to implement the fees in the compact.

The changes made Monday did little to quell the concerns of Representative Spencer Roach.

“We’re talking about a 30-year monopoly here, and when you think about that, that’s a span of seven Governors in the State of Florida and 15 cycles of the State Legislature that can’t touch this,” said Roach.

Even if the legislature succeeds in overcoming its internal battle over the compact, anti-gaming groups are already working on legal challenges in hopes of giving voters the final say on any deal.

Lawsuits are likely to make the case the new compact constitutes an extension of gambling, which under a 2018 constitutional amendment would require voter approval.

The Governor has argued because all of the new gaming will be run through the Seminole Tribe, the amendment doesn’t apply.

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