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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Does gambling deal include exception for tribe or ax for Miami airport?

2

September

Cell phones were buzzing around the state Tuesday as gambling watchers took a deeper look into the compact signed by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe on Monday. 

Marco Rubio called it a "a backroom secret, one-sided deal with the Seminole Tribe." The former House speaker said it "is a worse deal than the original compact. It creates a loophole where they don’t pay anything for their Broward casino, which is their most profitable one."

Isadore Havenick, vice president of Southwest Florida Enterprises, the parent company of Flagler Dog Track and Naples-Ft. Myers Greyhound Track, blasted the exception. "Allowing payments from the three Broward Seminole Tribe facilities to cease the instant any of the Miami-Dade parimutuels operate slot machines is patently absurd,'' he said.

The focus of the debate was on pages 34-36 of the document and the paragraph which says that if Florida law is changed to allowed Class III games in Miami Dade or Broward at a location "that is not presently licensed for the play of such games at such locations and such games were not in play as of January 1, 2009." If those changes are allowed and games start at any facility that were not licensed to play by Jan. 1, the tribe reduces its payments to the state from its Broward casinos.

Is that a big loophole carved into the agreement to benefit the tribe's Broward facilities? Or is it just a poorly written exception that is designed to mute the impact to the whole state if there are new games -- such as black jack -- added at the existing seven parimutuels in the two counties and Hialeah Park? Our bet is on the latter. The language specifically says "other than the existing Hialeah Park." All seven existing parimutuels are licensed to operate slots and, if they get other games -- such as banked card games, the reduction in the tribe's payment only comes from the casinos most likely affected, the Hard Rocks in Hollywood and Coconut Creek.

So what is the point of writing it this way with the Jan. 1, 2009, date? Maybe they wanted to make sure the Miami Airport, which has applied for a quarterhorse permit so it can operate slot machines in its  passenger terminals, won't be getting those slot games after all.

Or maybe they're talking about preventing the owners of Miami Jai Alai from transferring its slots permit to Miami Beach at, say, the Fountainbleau? A thought.

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 3:16pm]

    

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