TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist today, along with Max B. Osceola Jr., Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, complied with federal guidelines by signing a 25-year compact that has the potential to provide billions of dollars to Florida’s schools. In exchange for significant revenue sharing of profits, the agreement gives the tribe the exclusive right to operate slot machines and card games in the seven existing facilities on tribal lands.
The agreement comes on the eve of the federal government’s approval of a request from the Seminole Tribe of Florida to allow slot machines on tribal lands without any revenue sharing with the state.
“This historic agreement comes after 16 years of negotiations between the State of Florida and the Seminole Nation,” Governor Crist said. “Today’s agreement will benefit the entire state for generations to come, as well as benefit the tribe.”
The tribe will pay the State of Florida $50 million upon the federal government’s approval of the compact. Guaranteed annual minimum payments to the State of Florida will be $100 million. Starting in the third year, the state will receive between 10 and 25 percent of the revenue on a sliding scale, depending on total revenue amounts. The Florida Legislature will appropriate the funds.
Through the compact, Governor Crist recommends that the funds primarily be used to enhance and support Florida’s education system. The Governor also recommends that the Legislature designate five percent of the funds to local governments near the tribal lands to assist with increased economic activity, tourism and anticipated ancillary development.
“While it is the Legislature’s prerogative to appropriate the funds as they see fit, I believe that best use of the funds will be to enhance education,” Governor Crist said. “The compact will provide much needed revenue that can help us develop world-class schools throughout the state.”
The compact allows the Seminole Tribe of Florida to operate Class III slot machines and banked card games (such as black jack and baccarat) at the seven existing facilities on tribal lands (Immokalee, Big Cypress, Brighton, Hillsborough and three locations in Broward County). In additon, they will be permitted to conduct six no-limit poker tournaments each year, with 70 percent of the revenue going to charitable organizations
The compact provides a significant disincentive for the future expansion of gambling in Florida. The state will forfeit its share of the tribe’s revenue if such expansion occurs on non-tribal lands. Excepted from this exclusivity provision are the pari-mutuel facilities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties authorized by the 2004 constitutional amendment and subject to local approval. Miami-Dade County has not approved the gaming.
The agreement also requires the Seminole Tribe of Florida to develop a compulsive gambling prevention program; submit records to an independent annual financial audit; maintain a legal process for compensating individuals for injuries caused to patrons; ensure consumer protection through compliance with national gaming standards, state building codes and inspections, audits and monitoring of games, financial records and internal procedures. The tribe will also make provisions for smoke-free gaming and limit admission to patrons age 21 and older.
Indian gaming casinos on Indian reservations fall under federal jurisdiction. Governor Crist commented that the federal government had indicated it would allow the tribe to operate the slot machines, even if the state and tribe did not come to an agreement for profit sharing or oversight.