TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe, approved by the Florida Legislature on Wednesday, is almost certain to face legal challenges.
Some of the issues have been raised by anti-gaming groups.
There was also some political pushback including one lone state senator who voted against it.
That senator was Jeff Brandes from St. Petersburg.
“Sometimes somebody’s got to stand up and say I see it in a different way. And we could do better,” said Brandes.
Brandes says the 30-year compact, which grants the Seminole Tribe exclusive control over sports betting and expands table games like craps and roulette, wasn’t necessarily the state’s best bet.
“We should have free and open markets wherever we can. And if you don’t have to provide a monopoly to one vendor, why would we do that?” he said.
The compact, says Brandes, could have been negotiated to include only table games with the state itself processing a more competitive sports betting operation through Florida’s own lottery department.
“We would’ve still had the ability to have a free and open market in sports betting and fantasy sports and we would’ve brought additional hundreds of millions of dollars there,” said Brandes. “So, I think over time, we actually would’ve gotten a better deal had we broken this up.”
Brandes, who reaches his term limit next year, also represents the district that is home to the Derby Lane Dog Track.
With no more Greyhound racing in Florida, some think sports betting could offer the track and other pari-mutuel businesses an economic lifeline. Brandes disagrees.
“The tribe is still going to have 95% market share and all the other pari-mutuels are gonna have 5% market share. It just isn’t enough,” he said.
There are also legal issues, said Brandes, and inconsistencies.
Florida lawmakers say sports bets placed off tribal property are still legal because the transaction computer servers will be on tribal land.
But Brandes points out those same lawmakers just passed a sales tax on online purchases arguing even if a company’s servers are located outside the state - what matters is where the transaction was initiated in Florida.
So which is it?
“We will see what the courts say,” said Brandes. “But on his face, it’s kind of ridiculous that we could want to have it both ways.”
For that reason and others, Brandes expects whatever the special session outcome, the compact - will face legal challenges.
Any changes made to the compact by the legislature still require approval from the Seminole Indian tribe and final approval from the US Department of Interior which oversees tribal gaming operations.
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