Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Seminoles, Crist make $1.1 billion gambling pitch

TALLAHASSEE — As legislative budget negotiations reached a stalemate Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe offered the state a financial lifeline: $1.1 billion in cash over two years in return for giving the tribe a gambling monopoly.

The deal would allow the Seminoles to continue running blackjack tables at their Hard Rock Casinos, plus five other tribal sites, and it would give the tribe the exclusive right to operate Class III slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

In return, the Seminoles would send the state $600 million in 2009-10 and another $500 million, if needed, in 2010-11. During the 25-year agreement, the total minimum payment to the state would be $2.5 billion, minus interest payments for the upfront money in the first two years.

The tradeoff for Florida: no payment at all in year three, then payments that would slowly ramp up again in years four through 25.

Crist called it "significantly improved" over the gambling agreement he negotiated in 2007, which was invalidated by the Florida Supreme Court.

But the lead gambling negotiators in the House and Senate called it a bad deal for Florida.

"Our approach to the compact is not about filling a fiscal need," said Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. "We are facing budget problems, but taking out a line of credit from the Seminoles is not a responsible way to balance our budget. … Front-loading the payments is a short-term solution that will lead to long-term problems for our state and its industries."

Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, the Senate's lead negotiator, said the agreement seems to indicate the governor has backed off his support for the Senate plan to offer additional games to horse and dog tracks to better allow them to compete with the tribe.

The proposal must be approved by the Legislature to become law.

Barry Richard, a lawyer for the tribe, said the tribe decided to offer the money when it became clear that lawmakers were struggling to fill their budget deficit.

The tribe arrived at the $600 million figure because it roughly equals the difference between the House and Senate budgets and also because it combines the amount it would have owed the state this year under the previous agreement — $288 million — and the amount it can borrow from financial markets.

Under the plan, the state would split the cost of the loan 50-50 with the tribe.

For the parimutuel industry, it's a tough bargain.

Marc Dunbar, a lawyer and lobbyist for Gulfstream Race Track in Hallandale, said, "There are a lot of legislators who have parimutuels in their districts. … Are they going to be willing to take the money from the tribe and forsake their incumbent industries?"

Crist has an answer: "Do this for the children of Florida." He said the money should be dedicated to education.

Herald/Times staff writers Marc Caputo and Amy Hollyfield contributed to this report. Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at

Seminoles, Crist make $1.1 billion gambling pitch 04/22/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 12:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up


    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards


    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 


  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say


    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.