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Seminole casinos: Deal or no deal?

Q. What will our Legislature do about gambling and the Seminole Tribe of Florida?

A. This is the wild card of the 2009 session. It is a high-stakes, no-limit poker game. It is a roll of the dice.

Q. Are there any other gambling cliches you want to use?

A. Not right now.

Q. Why is the Legislature talking about this?

A. Well, remember that the governor made a deal with the Seminoles for slot machines and card games like blackjack.

Q. Yep, I remember. They're playing blackjack right now over at the Hard Rock.

A. Remember also that the Legislature sued and won. So now the deal is up in the air.

Q. What are the Legislature's options?

A. It could do nothing, and give up on getting any of the Seminoles' dough. That might be dumb — but some say it might not be. Read on.

Q. If we do nothing, what would happen to the slots and blackjack games?

A. That would be up to the feds. Some say the feds would shut 'em down. I'm skeptical.

Q. Could the Legislature come up with its own deal?

A. Sure. It could get the governor to make a new deal that it likes better, or it could try to write a deal itself.

Q. Do the House and Senate disagree?

A. Naturally. The Senate is more open to gambling. The House probably wants a deal that has no blackjack.

Q. I am guessing that the Seminoles wouldn't like that.

A. Correct again. No blackjack is a deal -breaker.

Q. Besides the House, Senate, governor and the Seminoles, are there other players?

A. You bet! There is another huge player, the parimutuel industry of South Florida —the tracks and poker rooms.

Q. What do they want?

A. They say they can't compete fairly with the Seminoles. They are getting socked by the state with a 50 percent tax rate, which they would like to see at 35 percent. They also say they can't compete on hours and games. They might want blackjack and machines.

Q. What do the Seminoles say about that?

A. The Seminoles don't mind if the tracks get a better deal on taxes, operating hours and such. But they might not be too keen on giving the tracks some new games.

Q. Hmm, don't the Seminoles have us over a barrel? Wouldn't we be crazy to leave their money on the table?

A. Maybe. But some say that is not a slam-dunk conclusion. For one thing, the tracks predict their own tax contributions to the state will go up if their rules are eased.

For another thing, the House is asking how much of the money the Seminoles pay the state is a true net gain, and how much of it is money diverted to casino gambling that the state might have seen in taxes elsewhere.

Last, I am not so sure the Seminoles don't need a deal just as much as we do. They are a big business with big plans, and they don't need this kind of uncertainty.

Q. If you could propose a deal, what would it say?

A. I'd let the Seminoles keep what they got. I'd give the tracks the tax break and games they want. I'd make the Seminoles make the House happy, more money or regulation or something. I'd let the governor make the new deal and then praise his leadership. See? Everybody's happy.

Q. What does the Senate get?

A. More gambling. Come on, seven! The senator needs a new pair of shoes.

Q. Aren't you being a little flippant there?

A. Sorry. It's my nature.

Seminole casinos: Deal or no deal? 03/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 14, 2009 9:50am]
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