Seminole Compact Unlikely Special Session Topic

Although the Seminole compact expired July 31, Florida lawmakers are expected to focus on redistricting rather than renewing the agreement that gave the tribe exclusive card-game rights in exchange for giving the state $1 billion over five years. However, Senate President Bill Galvano (l.) and the governor's office have held meetings in anticipation of compact negotiations.

Florida Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano recently said redistricting should take precedence over compact negotiations with the Seminole Tribe of Florida during the upcoming special session which begins August 10. “It is very unlikely that we would expand the call to involve anything else, especially the compact,” said Galvano, who led the original compact negotiations. 

Provisions of the compact expired July 31, including state’s 5-year agreement with the tribe allowing exclusivity to offer blackjack and other card games at five of its seven casinos, in return for giving the state $1 billion.

Under the expired compact, the tribe is required to end the card games within 90 days, unless the legislature extends the compact which it failed to do this spring. State regulatory officials have notified the tribe to end the games. But tribal officials, still pushing for compact renewal, announced they will seek legal mediation. They said they will not shut down the games because they allege the state violated the compact by allowing electronic blackjack and three-card poker at parimutuels. However, they said they will continue to end the state shared-revenue checks.

State Senator Rob Bradley, chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee which oversees gambling, said officials from the Senate, House and governor’s office have begun preparing for new negotiations with the Seminoles. “We want to make sure we are on the same page when we sit down with the tribe,” he said.

Lawmakers are meeting in a special session to draw new district lines after the Florida Supreme Court ruled districts favored political parties or incumbents.