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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Seminole swap: roulette for video lottery and $400 million

24

March

Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Dennis Jones released his bills early this morning to make way for the Senate position on the Seminole Indian gambling compact and authorize Florida's ailing parimutuel industry to sweep up more casino games in competition.

The major concessions: give the Seminole Tribe full-fledged casinos, included spinning roulette wheels, craps and all the banked card games it wants. In return, it asks the tribe to pony up $400 million a year in revenue sharing to the state, with another 10 percent and 25 percent more, depending on their net win.

For the ailing horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons, the senator from Seminole gives them something too: a 35 percent tax rate on all the slot machines and casino games they plan, give the Miami-Dade and Broward parimutuels blackjack and other banked cards games and give the 17 other parimutuels around the state, including Hialeah Race Track with its new quarter horse racing, electronic bingo -- also known as video lottery terminals.

Hialeah, however, would have to do what al the other parimutuels are required to do, run a full schedule of races for two years before getting the games.

They are completely tied together. "One can't happed without the other,'' Jones said this morning.

It's gambling expansion at its finest and it also means cash, if people get hooked. Jones estimates this could draw down $1 billion a year in fresh, recurring revenues once the industry gets cranked up. That could avoid having to raise the property tax rate around the state to pay for schools and offset the 12 percent drop in property values. 

"Members have a decision to make,'' Jones said. "They can either allow the existing parimutuels to have more products…or they can go back home and raise property taxes. It's a pretty clear choice.''

Jones said that by giving existing gambling operators more choices, the state will offset the impact expanding the Seminole casinos. Legislative economist Amy Baker projects that any expansion of gaming on tribal land could come at the expense of Florida's existing tourism industry of $95 million a year's. Ouch. 

Among the compact provisions:

* Gives the governor until December 31, 2009 to renegotiate the agreements with the tribe with Legislative approval

* The tribe is permitted to operate roulette, craps, blackjack and other banked card games, Class III slot machines and poker without betting limits

* In exchange, the tribe pays $400 million a year plus 10 percent of its net win above $2 billion and up to $4 billion, plus 25 percent of  net win above $4 billion

* Net win can be reduced if net win goes below $1.37 billion

* Gives Miami-Dade and Broward parimutuels blackjack and banked card games if the tribe gets them 

* Requires the tribe to complete the term of the compact if the voters repeal slot machines

* Increases requirements on the tribe, such as access to data, oversight of gaming operations, construction standards

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 8:33pm]

    

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