Jobs, table games at risk for Seminole Casino

Posted at 9:05 PM, Jan 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 06:56:44-05

It’s one of the most controversial issues up for a vote this legislative session, whether or not to renew The Seminole Tribe’s gambling agreement. Not only would it allow the casino to continue dealing blackjack and other table games, but it would add new games like dice and roulette in exchange for $3 billion to the state over seven years. Governor Rick Scott has already approved this deal, but now it's up to lawmakers.

Everyone loves the chance to win, and at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, there are plenty of options.

“I like the table games; I don’t like the slot machines,” said Robert Smith.

It's those table games like Blackjack, baccarat, and Pai Gow poker that could be on the chopping block if lawmakers don’t renew the Seminole Tribe’s gambling agreement, impacting its casinos all over the state, inlcuding in Tampa, Hollywood, Brighton, Immokalee and Coconut Creek.

“It would keep me from coming,” Smith said. “I think it would be very bad. People would lose their jobs,” said Dale Robbins.

The Seminole Tribe says more than 3,700 jobs hinge on the continuation of the games.

“Some of you may forget that jobs are at stake; and these particular individuals buying houses and cars have children in school, and they do not know where they stand. I take that responsibility very seriously,” said Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen.

The table games portion of the contract expired in October, and the tribe ignored the state’s request to stop the card games. In addition, the tribe filed a federal lawsuit claiming bad-faith negotiations by the state.

Slot machines and regular poker games are still covered in another contract that runs through 2030.

In a statement sent to ABC Action News, the Seminole Tribe said, in part, “Approval of the Compact would create 15,000 more jobs through a minimum $1.8 billion tourism investment in Tampa and Hollywood.”

“I think they should leave them because a lot of people play them, and that’s why they come,” said Beatrice Guy.

In the first day of testimony, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee was skeptical about how much money the state would get, and what it would mean for other casinos. If approved, the compact would give the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to offer these games at its casinos, aside from others where exceptions have already been made.

Gamblers we spoke to say if jobs are on the line, lawmakers need to listen up.

“I would say don’t make any bills where anyone is going to lose jobs. Keep the table games in the casino,” said Dale Robbins.

There are a lot of other terms in the contract lawmakers took issue with Wednesday. Leaders expressed doubts about passing the proposed agreement without changes.

This was the first of several hearings before a senate committee, where many of those issues will be hammered out within the coming weeks.

We’ll continue to follow the proposed gambling deal as the legislative session continues.