Gretna Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing and Gadsden Slot Referendum Could Invalidate Florida’s Seminole Gaming Compact, Las Vegas Sands Representative Says; Sun-Sentinel’s Kathleen Haughney Reports

Sands lobbyist calls developments in Miami, Gadsden counties a “game changer”

By Kathleen Haughney
November 2, 2011

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s representative for Las Vegas Sands called recent developments in Miami-Dade and Gadsden counties a “game changer” as the Legislature moves forward with a debate over bringing destination casinos to Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands, said that events over the last week in the state’s take on gaming have given him more confidence in the bill’s chances.

Last week, the Division of Parimutuel Wagering granted West Flagler Associates a permit to operate summer jai alai, and with that, potentially slot machines. Additionally, Tuesday night, the Gadsden County Commission approved a call for a referendum in January over whether a new gaming facility at Gretna could offer slots. It’s already been approved for barrel racing.

Those movements could always be challenged in court, but if the changes do go through, they could invalidate a compact between the state and Seminole tribe signed in 2010 that guarantees the state about $1 billion over five years.

The compact with the tribe guaranteed the Seminoles rights to banked card games such as blackjack and bacarrat at five of their seven facilities and unlimited rights to slots outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The compact was signed for 20 years, but at the five year point, the state and tribe could renegotiate the terms. If it is breached before the five year point, the tribe could simply walk away and not give the state any money.

When lawmakers first began proposing the destination casino bill, several lawmakers and other gaming operators have raised the issue of the deal with the tribe and the concern that the state could lose out on revenue.

“That is a big game changer,” he said, noting that those two developments could invalidate a compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe. “It appears that it’s imminent that it will be breached.”

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