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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Economists say tribe gets better deal under House gamble plan

6

April

The state's top economists just concluded their forecast for the revenue they expect to be generated by the House and Senate Indian Gambling compact and came up with the following numbers:

The House bill will bring in $257.2 million in the first year, even though it strips the tribe of black jack and banked card games. Economists said the tribe will benefit greatly from having exclusive operation of Las Vegas-style slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties and are expected to expand the number of games they operate by 10 percent a year -- as they have done in the recent past. The House bill, however, only requires the tribe to pay $100 million in revenue sharing.

"We believe there has been growth and there will continue to be some growth going forward regardless of whether there is table games or not,'' said Amy Baker, director of the legislature's Economic and Demographic Research division.

By contrast, the Senate bill, which gives the tribe full casinos -- including black jack, slot machines, roulette and craps -- is close in its estimate that the tribe should be required to pay $400 million a year in annual revenue sharing. The economists, sitting as the Revenue Estimating Conference, said the state can expect $504 million in the first year.

The economists arrived at their estimate by assuming the tribe can pay $400 million in the first year if the deal is inked by July 1, they will lose one-twelfth of that as they first payment is not likely to be made until August 1. They then add in the $137.5 million now being held in reserve because the current agreement has been invalidated.

Economists expect the tribe to face some competition from the Senate plan to also expand gambling at horse and dog track and jai alai frontons around the state but they continue to believe the $400 million is realistic.

Rep. Bill Galvano, the chairman of the House committee that authorized the tribal gaming bill, said the estimate is the proof they need to tell federal regulators that by giving the tribe exclusivity to slot machines outside of South Florida is a very valuable exchange for revenue sharing.

"It's a reasonable expectation and corroboration that they are getting something of value,'' he said.

Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said the Seminoles would not comment. "The Tribe prefers not to comment on the various proposals being raised in the Legislature,'' he said.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 8:35pm]

    

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