Since the Florida Legislative passed <a href="http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=960212.DOCX&DocumentType=Amendments&BillNumber=0788&Session=2009">Senate Bill 788</a>, which removes most restrictions on poker in the state, Ante Up has received a steady stream of phone calls and e-mails from people wanting to know when the new limits take effect.
The short answer: It’s impossible to say. Unlike most bills that take effect on July 1, this one is different because everything included in it is dependent on a new Seminole Compact being approved. So here’s a timeline of the steps involved, followed by some discussion on how long it might take:
1. Gov. Charlie Crist signs SB 788.
2. Gov. Crist and the Seminole Tribe draft a new compact
3. Florida Legislature and Seminole Tribe Council approve the new compact
4. Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approves the new compact, and it’s printed in the Federal Register.
Based on conversations with Ante Up sources, the best-case scenario would have the new limits taking effect late this year. But there are a number of factors that might test that optimism. Here’s what’s involved in the steps above:
1. Crist supported the wide-ranging original Senate bill, so he’s expected to sign the bill soon.
2. The bill dictates that a new compact be completed by Aug. 31. The question is whether the Seminole Tribe will accept the terms in the bill, which aren’t as generous as the compact the tribe is operating under right now. Specifically, losing blackjack at Seminole Casino Immokalee, where the game is being dealt right now after millions of dollars in renovations, is a loss. However, Seminole lobbyists were consulted on the final days of negotiations, and the Tribe has thanked legislators for their willingness to work on the compact.
<strong>Best guess: </strong>Aug. 31.
3. The Florida Legislature is in session every March-April, so unless a special session is called, the new compact will have to wait until March. But since the Aug. 31 date was written into the bill, one can assume that lawmakers are open to calling a special session when a new compact is reached. The last special session convened about 2.5 weeks after it was called for. However, if the compact strays from the parameters in the bill, it will open new debate, so approval isn’t a done deal.
<strong>Best guess: </strong>Oct. 1 – and if the Legislature rejects the compact, then we’re back to square one.
4. It took roughly two months under the current compact for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve it and for it to be published in the Federal Register.
<strong>Best guess: </strong>Dec. 1, assuming the Legislature approves the compact