Ante Up has finished its first reading of the gaming compact that Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe signed today, and for poker players, it’s a great deal.
Poker is mentioned only one time in the compact, and that was to reaffirm that offering no-limit poker anywhere in the state will not infringe on the exclusivity requirements of the compact. In other words, the change in poker laws that the Legislature allowed in <a href="http://www.floridagamingwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/0788er.PDF">Senate Bill 788</a> (no more bet or buy-in limits and expanded hours) remain, pending final approval of the compact.
The compact now goes to the Legislature for approval. A special session is expected to be called for early October. Early reaction from legislative leaders suggest there are some "red flags" in the compact that may pose problems, but the leaders have begun an exhaustive review of the deal. If the Legislature approves the compact, it then goes to the federal government for approval. Key to that stage is sufficient exclusivity in games for the tribe, which is necessary since the state will receive a portion of revenues. Much of the compact deals with that issue. If the federal government signs off on the compact, it – and the expanded poker laws – will go into effect as soon as the compact is published in the Federal Register. With no impediments, all of this could happen before Thanksgiving.
Here are some of the more interesting tidbits of the compact agreement:
The tribe may offer table games and Class III slot machines at all seven of its casinos. The Legislature had only authorized it for the tribe’s Broward and Hillsborough casinos.
The Florida Department of Revenue will act as the compliance agency for the Seminole Tribe, not the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which is the compliance agency for pari-mutuel gaming. It will be interesting to see what this means for poker, if there are different agencies trying to enforce the same regulations.
While the tribe is not permitted to offer craps or roulette, the compact doesn’t prohibit it from offering video versions of the games. Miami-Dade and Broward pari-mutuels have previously asked to be able to offer video versions of table games under their slot machine licenses.
If the federal or state government in the future authorizes Internet gaming, the tribe would be allowed to reduce its payments to the state. Bills are pending in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to regulate certain Internet gaming, and a Florida state agency has been charged to report on issues with Internet gaming by Dec. 1.
The compact is in effect for 20 years.
The tribe has exclusive rights to offer table games and Class III slot machines throughout the state, with the following exceptions:
Other tribes, with a valid compact, can offer the same games. (The Miccosukee tribe is the only qualifying tribe in Florida).
Class III slot machines are allowed at Broward and Miami-Dade pari-mutuels, though they can not move their licenses to new locations. They are also eligible to offer table games, if approved. Gaming can expand to other locations in the two counties, but would reduce the payments the tribe must make to the state.
Pari-mutuels outside of those two counties, if approved, could operate up to 300 historical racing or electronic bingo machines.