Seminole Tribe, Department of Interior come to expanded gambling agreement
A 25-year tribal-state agreement allowing expanded gambling at casinos operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida was approved in January by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The agreement, negotiated by Gov. Charlie Crist and tribal officials and published in the Federal Register, will allow Class III, casino-style slot machines and table games at the tribe’s seven casinos.
In exchange for exclusivity on the games, the tribe agreed to share casino revenue with the state. The first $50 million was transferred to the state in early January. The state is slated to receive annual minimum payments of $100 million.
“[The] transfer of $50 million to the state of Florida is just the beginning of revenue that will potentially provide billions of dollars to Florida’s schools during the next 25 years,” the governor said in a news release. “While the Legislature holds the authority to appropriate these funds, I am confident they will use the power of the purse to improve the quality of life of Floridians for generations to come.”
The tribal-state agreement still faces legal challenges. Florida House and Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, sued to prevent Crist from permitting new slot machines for the tribe without the Legislature’s approval.
Rubio maintains the agreement violates the Florida Constitution’s separation of powers clause and encroaches on the Legislature’s law and policymaking auth-ority. The suit noted that five other states’ high courts, in suits filed by legislatures, have ruled that “a governor may not unilaterally bind a state to a gaming compact” with Indian tribes.
As of press time, oral arguments were scheduled for Jan. 30.
Attorney General Bill McCollum sued on Dec. 20 to keep the secretary of the Interior from making the compact effective until after the state Supreme Court ruled on its validity. However, a judge struck that argument down.