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Gaming compact clears Florida Legislature, faces federal regulators and possible legal challenge

'We will know, you know, in August if they have rejected the compact,' House Speaker Chris Sprowls says
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Posted at 6:32 PM, May 19, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — We have a deal.

The Florida Legislature has signed off on a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. It will legalize mobile sports betting in the sunshine state and bring in billions in new revenue.

Following the Senate's near-unanimous passage a day earlier, House members gave the deal broad bipartisan support Wednesday afternoon. Lawmakers there gave final legislative approval to the compact 97 to 17.

The new 30-year deal would allow the tribe to become a state hub for mobile sports betting and expanding its six current operations with craps and roulette. The compact also permits the construction of three more facilities on the Seminole Hollywood reservation.

Florida, meanwhile, is guaranteed $2.5 billion in the first five years and an estimated $6 billion through 2030.

"The breakdown of the 2010 compact has denied the state of Florida any revenue derived from the Seminole Tribe's ongoing gaming operations -- including what is the most profitable casino in the United States, located in Hillsborough County," said Gov. Ron DeSantis in a statement. "This changes today. With this new compact, the state will now see a large stream of reoccurring revenue to the tune of billions of dollars over the next few years."

The compact will next need the governor's signature, which is expected as he helped broker it. From there, it heads to the Department of the Interior for final federal approval.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls was hopeful it would happen.

"Interior has, I think, 45 days on whether or not to accept or reject the language of the compact," Sprowls said. "We will know, you know, in August if they have rejected the compact. If they reject the compact, obviously, this compact wouldn’t be in place. That’s their decision and their decision alone."

Opponents are mulling legal challenges. Groups like No Casinos have already hinted litigation is coming.

The Orlando-based organization believes the compact is unconstitutional and has said it expands gaming beyond tribal territory and requires voter approval under Amendment 3.

"This fight is just beginning," said No Casinos President John Sowinski in a statement. "We are committed to ensuring that the will of the people, who voted by a remarkable 72 landslide to give Florida voters the exclusive right to authorize casino gambling in our state, will be respected."

If the agreement clears the courts and federal regulators -- mobile sports betting could begin in Florida as soon as Oct. 15.