Florida lawmakers officially passed the new Seminole Tribe-State Gaming Pact this week. But it came at the expense of a regulated online poker market in the Sunshine State.
The House overwhelmingly voted in favor of the new deal, passing it by a margin of 97-17 in a special legislative session on Wednesday. The vote came a day after the Senate voted 39-1 to approve the deal.
Last month, Governor Ron DeSantis agreed to a new 30-year pact with the tribe that would legalize sports betting in Florida. This would allow Seminoles to act as a hub for the state’s sports betting market and also expand its casino offering to include games like craps and roulette.
According to local media, DeSantis and the tribe agreed to remove wording from the “Miscellaneous” section of the agreement that could have allowed Seminole to have control of an online gambling market, including poker, to appease some of the conservative lawmakers who were skeptical of the new compact.
This move delays any prospect of legal online poker in Florida for at least a few years.
The deal would also allow pari-mutuel establishments to continue offering “designated player” card games, which was a contentious point in the negotiations as the Seminoles claimed that these games violated the previous contract between the state and the tribe.
The previous pact stated that the tribe had the exclusive right to offer house card games like blackjack. There was a brief period in which the tribe stopped making payments to the state after a federal judge agreed the movement violated the agreement in place.
The Seminole Tribe will be licensed to operate sports betting online and at its six Las Vegas-style casinos located across the state. Pari-mutuel establishments will be authorized to offer sports betting if they subscribe to Seminoles.
Pari-mutuel will pay 40% of its net income to the tribe. The tribe will pay the state 10% of these funds and keep the remaining 30%. The state will also collect 13.75% of any income generated from sports betting managed by Seminole. The Seminole tribe will need to partner with at least three pari-mutuels in the first three months of the sports betting market or the payout to the state will increase by 2%.
Since it deals with a federally recognized tribe, the compact has yet to be approved by the US Department of the Interior. He could still face legal hurdles, however, multiple media reports that anti-gambling groups claim he violates Amendment 3, a 2018 constitutional amendment that requires the approval of voters across the state for any expansion of the game.
If one of these groups decides to take legal action against the state and the tribe, it could delay or end the agreement altogether.
The state and tribe maintain that the operation is conducted on sovereign tribal lands and is not subject to a vote. Earlier this week, a group of more than 100 people protested the deal outside the Capitol in Tallahassee.