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Deadline Set in Seminole Nation of Florida's Class III Gaming Compact

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A July 31 deadline has been set for the Seminole Nation of Florida regarding a key provision of its Class III gaming compact with the state.

The Nation and the state have been in talks for several months on how to renew the compact, but have failed to reach an agreement. According to the provisions of the 2010 agreement, the Nation has an exclusive right, to play three card games -- blackjack, chemin de fer and baccarat -- at five of its casinos, and in return, they must share a portion of their revenue with the state to be in compliance with state and federal law.

The Miami Herald reports that state legislators may not renew the compact because the state wants to improve its outdated gaming laws as well as “open the door to new gambling options from the tribe’s competitors.”

The Nation argues that an estimated $116 million paid annually to the state will continue to be a guarantee if the state will renew its compact and allows the Nation to keep exclusive gaming rights.

Last year, an editorial in The Tampa Tribune said the state should “respect the Seminole gaming pact” by renewing it:

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The state’s gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe has generated over $1 billion in revenues over the past five years and helped to prevent the spread of big-money games and high-end, Las Vegas-style resorts in Florida.

While we’re no fan of gambling, the Seminole Compact, which allows for slot machines, blackjack and certain other card games at five of the tribe’s seven Florida casinos, offers the state its best option if it wants to keep gambling in check.

But competing interests are now threatening to either weaken or eliminate the compact as the five-year deal giving the Seminoles exclusivity for those games nears its end. When they meet next year, lawmakers should resist the pressure from out-of-state casino interests and work with Gov. Rick Scott to renew the Seminole Compact.

Florida entered into the deal in 2010 as a way to generate revenue for an activity that would more than likely have been allowed with or without the state’s consent.

But Sen. Bill Galvano, a key negotiator in the State Senate, told The Herald that the deadline could merely be strategic. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the governor and Legislature end up doing nothing on the compact,’’ he said. “The loss of the banked card games is enough to motivate further negotiation.”