ICYMI: Tampa Tribune editorial urges lawmakers to reject new compact

In case you missed it, please take a few minutes to read the editorial below from theTampa Tribune


 

Editorial: Gambling deal portends proliferation of high-stakes games, slots in Florida

December 13, 2015

The gambling deal Gov. Rick Scott signed last week guarantees the Seminole Tribe will pay the state at least $3 billion over the next seven years, far more than the previous deal pays the state.

But it comes at a cost that is not worth the money.

The deal could lead to a significant expansion of gambling, an activity that damages Florida’s family-friendly image and has proven in other states to have a detrimental effect on communities and local economies.

Lawmakers should reject the deal in favor of one that keeps gambling in check.

While the deal triples the Tribe’s payment to the state from the $1 billion guaranteed under a recently expired deal to $3 billion — and could help Scott deliver his promised tax cuts in the coming fiscal year — it also eliminates the strict exclusivity that limited gambling in Florida and complicated efforts to build resort casinos like those in Las Vegas and other gambling meccas.

The deal allows the Seminoles to offer blackjack, craps and roulette at its seven facilities, a loosening of the current restrictions. It could allow gambling facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward to add slot machines and possibly blackjack. Though the deal limits the gambling expansion to South Florida for the most part, expect lawmakers from a half-dozen counties, including Pinellas and Hillsborough, to demand slots at gambling facilities in those counties.

The deal will energize efforts to bring resort-style casinos to the state, something rejected by Florida voters on several occasions over the years.

There are some positive aspects to the deal. It would eliminate the requirement dog and horse tracks run a minimum number of races to be eligible to host poker games and slots, which forces the animals to be raced solely to satisfy the minimums.

And it appears to thwart efforts to legalize fantasy sports betting by ending the Tribe’s requirement to pay the $3 billion if lawmakers approve Internet gambling in Florida. But that doesn’t make the deal palatable.

We had hoped a renegotiated deal with the Seminoles would keep a lid on gambling in the state while continuing to bring millions in revenue every year.

While we wish there were no gambling in the state, the Seminoles operate on federal land and would likely be allowed to offer the games with or without the state’s approval.

The exclusivity in the expired deal limited the Tribe’s gaming and at the same time kept the pro-casino forces at bay. That dynamic is threatened by this new deal and by lawmakers who want to bring casinos to Florida and increase the number of slots.

All of this is happening as the anti-gambling group No Casinos Inc. challenges the Legislature’s authority to authorize casino gambling in Florida.

The group says the state’s constitution gives only the voters that authority. Should the group lose that court case, it will pursue a constitutional amendment ensuring the public’s right to approve or reject casinos.

John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, says the deal Scott offered, and that lawmakers might expand upon, is a betrayal of the Seminole compact passed in 2010. “It was supposed to stand as a firewall against the expansion of gambling,” he says.

The deal instead opens the door to more gambling.

Lawmakers should look to Atlantic City and the economic promise casino gambling failed to deliver there. Unemployment and crime rose, and local businesses suffered.

The deal Scott brokered is guided more by the allure of easy money than by the reality of what unbridled gambling will mean to Florida’s future.

 

To read the editorial on the Tampa Tribune’s website click here