The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Seminoles blast Legislature for dragging feet on compact

20

October

The Seminole Tribe of Florida's head of gambling delivered a blunt, public message to the Florida Legislature Tuesday: You can allow unlimited gambling statewide, or you can have our $150 million a year. But you won't get both.

James F. Allen, the Seminoles' chief executive officer of gaming operations, spoke candidly Tuesday about the failure of the Legislature, governor and the tribe to agree on a gambling compact. Appearing at the Florida Gaming Summit, held at the Seminole Hard Rock and Casino in Hollywood, Allen decried the lack of progress on a compact out of Tallahassee.

"It's gone on too long, and what's been going on is not in the tribe's best interests," Allen said.

Gov. Charlie Crist and the tribe agreed to most but not all of the Legislature's requirements, including paying the state a minimum of $150 million a year for the next 20 years, but it rejected a provision that would allow the Legislature to expand gambling elsewhere in the state, as long as it was outside a 100-mile radius of existing parimutuels.

The Legislature must sign on to the pact and the House's lead negotiator on the gambling issue, Rep. Bill Galvano, has declared the deal worked out by Crist is unacceptable.

Crist said this week that the Legislature could ratify the compact during a special legislative session in December on commuter and high speed rail. If that doesn't happen, the issue will wait until the March regular session.

"I think it's unfortunate that the Legislature has not sat down with the Seminoles
directly to negotiate a compact," said Rep. James W. Waldman, a Coconut Creek Democrat and supporter of the compact. "The Legislature really needs to wake up to that's the way you negotiate. You don't negotiate without a critical party in the room."

  "It has obviously helped from a marketing standpoint, because you become more credible
as a real casino," Allen said. "But when you look at what we make on table games and the
amount of money we're playing to the state, it's almost a wash."

The tribe has plans to expand further, hoping to add hotel rooms to its Hollywood and
Tampa locations and build up its property in Coconut Creek.

But the uncertainty surrounding the compact has made it all but impossible to project
the tribe's bottom line going forward, he said. "If you look long term, 10, 15, 20 years down the road, it obviously would diminish the possibility of expanding the tribe's gaming operation," Allen said.

"We just need to end up in a situation where we don't have these huge financial commitments and there's gaming all over the state, then we say, ‘Wow, there's just not enough revenue to support it.' "

ADAM BEASLEY

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 3:23pm]

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