State pact with Seminoles not a done deal

11/16/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Just day after Florida penned a historic 25-year agreement with the Seminole Tribe to expand gambling at casinos, questions remain if the deal will actually hold.

Top state legislator such as House Speaker Marco Rubio and Democratic Senate leader Steven Geller insist that the Legislature must approve the deal.

But Gov. Charlie Crist disagrees. Crist spokesman George LeMieux said earlier this week that the "pact intentionally has no provisions infringing on the Legislature’s authority."

The deal calls for the state to take in $100 million the first year, $125 million the second, and not less than $150 million in the third year.

But some critics say Crist negotiated a bad deal.

Steven Light is a political scientist and co-director of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy at the University of North Dakota. He says overall, both the Seminole Tribe and the state did well.

Geller says Crist could have reach a better deal that would have allowed existing pari-mutuel facilities the ability to expand their games and bring in even more revenue to the state.

Light says nationally, there has been a big increase in states negotiating or re-negotiating with tribes with revenue sharing provisions.

The Florida deal calls for the Seminoles to provide 10 percent of their take on the first $2 billion dollars of revenue. In comparison, in the Connecticut tribes hand over 25 percent of all slot machine revenues to the state.

The chief gaming executive of Mardi Gras Gaming in Hallandale Beach, Dan Adkins, has threatened to sue.

The deal recommends that 95 percent of money the state receives from the tribes be spent on education, with 5 percent going to local governments in cities neighboring the tribes cassino’s, but leaves it up to the Legislature to decide.

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