Seminole gambling compact facing pushback from some Florida lawmakers

A supermajority is needed to implement the fees in the compact

Florida lawmakers to consider DeSantis, Seminole Tribe gambling compact
Florida lawmakers to consider DeSantis, Seminole Tribe gambling compact

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature gaveled in Monday for what is expected to be a quick special session to ratify Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 30-year compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

But the session may not go as smoothly as some had hoped.

Efforts are already being made to ease some Republicans’ moral and economic objections that could put the deal in jeopardy.

On day one of the special session things were already moving fast at the Capitol.

Changes to the compact were announced promptly after gaveling in at 1 p.m.

“I am holding in my hand an addendum to the Seminole Compact,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls announced to the chamber.

The two changes include delaying sports betting until Oct. 15 and cancelation of planned talks to allow for statewide online casino gambling.

“You know as Sheldon Adelson used to say, he liked the idea that you have to put on a pair of pants if you want to go and gamble,” said Representative Randy Fine who helped negotiate the revised deal with DeSantis and the tribe.

Still, some members have reservations.

“Never do business with just one vendor,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes.

Brandes takes issue with giving the tribe exclusive rights to fantasy sports betting.

“This is basically a monopoly that you’re providing to one entity for 30 years,” said Brandes.

For others like Representative Clay Yarborough (R-Jacksonville), moral objections to gambling are at play.

“The effect of gambling on individuals could have the same effect as alcohol and crack,” said Yarborough.

With some Republicans already vowing to vote no, bipartisan support will be necessary to secure the supermajority needed to implement the fees in the compact.

The changes made Monday did little to quell the concerns of Representative Spencer Roach.

“We’re talking about a 30-year monopoly here, and when you think about that, that’s a span of seven Governors in the State of Florida and 15 cycles of the State Legislature that can’t touch this,” said Roach.

Even if the legislature succeeds in overcoming its internal battle over the compact, anti-gaming groups are already working on legal challenges in hopes of giving voters the final say on any deal.

Lawsuits are likely to make the case the new compact constitutes an extension of gambling, which under a 2018 constitutional amendment would require voter approval.

DeSantis has argued because all of the new gaming that will be run through the Seminole Tribe, the amendment doesn’t apply.