MIAMI – Florida lawmakers will start a special session on Monday and Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Florida gambling opponents will be watching them closely.
On April 23, DeSantis signed a new 30-year gambling compact with the tribe that includes a $2.5 billion return to the state over the next five years. Florida lawmakers and the U.S. Department of the Interior still need to approve the compact.
If the feds and the state approve it, the tribe will be allowed to expand operations with three new casinos, roulette and craps, and mobile phone sports betting through servers on tribal lands. The compact also allows the tribe to offer pari-mutuel operators online betting services.
“The compact relies on the illusion that if you are on your cell phone and placing a bet in Orlando or in downtown Miami ... that because the ... computer server that is receiving that bet is on tribal lands that therefore that gambling is taking place on tribal lands,” said John Sowinski, a communications consultant.
Sowinski, the president of the group No Casinos, argues that since those betting will be doing so from Florida the new compact needs the state voters’ approval. Amendment 3 to the Florida Constitution provides voters with “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in Florida.”
Lawmakers will have to vote on Florida Senate Bill 7076, which creates the Florida Gaming Control Commission, a compliance agency within the Office of the Attorney General starting on July 1, 2022. The Senate has eight other bills related to gambling.