Feds approve Florida-Seminole sports betting deal

Author: The Associated Press
Published: Updated:
Gov. Ron DeSantis sits with a member of the Seminole Tribe at the State Capitol after signing a gambling pact April 23, 2021 that would include bringing sports betting to the tribe’s casinos in the state. (Credit: via Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Twitter account)

Federal officials approved a deal Friday that will allow the Seminole Tribe to operate sports betting and add roulette and craps to its seven Florida casinos, with the state potentially receiving $20 billion over the next 30 years.

Gov. Ron DeSantis had worked out the gambling compact with the tribe this past spring, and it was later approved by the Republican-controlled Florida House and Senate. The deal needed final approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations.

“The final approval of this historic gaming compact is a big deal for the State of Florida,” DeSantis said in a statement. “This mutually beneficial agreement will grow our economy, expand tourism and recreation and provide billions in new revenue to benefit Floridians.”

Officials said the agreement will generate an estimated $6 billion through 2030. The Tribe is not currently making any revenue payments to the state.

“Today is a great day for the people of Florida, who will benefit not only from a $2.5 billion revenue-sharing guarantee over five years, but also from statewide sports betting and new casino games that will roll out this fall and mean more jobs for Floridians and more money invested in this state,” Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. said in a statement.

Under the agreement, the Seminoles could begin sports betting Oct. 15 and sports wagering at horse tracks, jai alai frontons and former dog tracks for a share of the income. Online sports betting operated by the tribe also will be allowed.

Democrats opposing the deal have argued that the compact violates Amendment 3 passed by Florida voters in 2018. The amendment to the state constitution prevents the expansion of gambling outside of tribal lands without voter approval.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that barred states from authorizing sports betting. Florida’s original compact with the Seminoles gave the tribe exclusive rights to slot machines and blackjack. In exchange, the tribe paid the state several billion dollars. Payments stopped in 2019.

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