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Florida reaches new gambling agreement with Seminole Tribe

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reached an agreement with the Seminole Tribe on Friday that would greatly expand gambling in the state, including the introduction of legalized sports wagering.

Sports betting, craps and roulette haven’t been a part of Florida casinos until now. This means online and in-person sports betting.

Governor DeSantis met with the chairman of the Seminole Tribe on Friday to sign the piece of paper that would finally bring sports betting to Florida.

Marcellus Osceola Jr. is the Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. “This is the best deal for everybody. It’s not in favor of the tribe or the state. It’s in favor of both parties,” Osceola said.

The tribe would be allowed to offer sports gambling at its casinos in South Florida and near Tampa and will be allowed to license horse tracks, jai-alai frontons and former dog tracks to accept such wagers on its behalf for a share of the income, according to a memo by state Senate President Wilton Simpson to his members.

The tribe will also be allowed to introduce craps and roulette at its casinos, including the popular Hard Rock Casino near Fort Lauderdale.

The 30-year contract, known as a compact, between the state and tribe must still be considered by the Legislature at a special session that will begin May 17, according to the memo.

The deal could generate about $2.5 billion in revenue over the next five years and $6 billion by 2030.

Sports betting Attorney Daniel Wallach says while this may sound great, don’t get too excited just yet.

“I think the legal risk for the state of Florida is exceptionally high. And there will undoubtedly be litigation over this with a relatively high likelihood that this sports betting framework will be overturned by a federal court,” Wallach said.

Wallach believes online sports betting is at serious risk, even though the tribe would take bets on servers located on tribal lands.  There’s also Amendment 3 that they would have to worry about. Passed in 2018, Amendment 3 states that any expansion of casino gambling must be approved by voters.

Governor Ron DeSantis said, “If somebody wants to try to contest that, both the tribe and the state will be vigorously defending the agreement that we have made here today.”

Sports bar sees positive impact from sports betting

Sports bars in Southwest Florida told us they think more people would be walking through their doors if those same people were able to bet on the games they watch on TV.

A Seminole Tribe spokesperson told us sports betting would not only be up and running in Immokalee, but people would be able to do it online as well.

People we spoke to see the benefits of this new agreement as a win-win.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Liz Daniel told WINK News. “Bring revenue into the state. Why not?”

“If it makes revenue for the state, I’m for it,” Steven Londy WINK News.

“People do it, and they make money,” Rebecca Bettencourt WINK News. “So might as well do it legally.”

Businesses also see potential positive impacts.

“It could help us in the long run,” said Mac McMahon, the owner of Sidelines Sports Bar & Grill, in an interview with WINK News.

McMahon said businesses like his could reap the rewards.

“We have 35 TVs, so they could watch multiple games if they got a lot of action on a lot of different games,” McMahon said with a laugh.

The agreement is also expected to create more than 2,000 jobs.

“Everything’s been shut down for quite a while,” Jay Rizzo told WINK News. “If they can promote this, and it can go through, I would support it 100%.”

“We like Fort Myers, and we’d like to see them do well,” Bob Bastuba told WINK News.

People think this could be the boost needed to help their favorite businesses overcome losses from the pandemic.

“Anything to do with sports is definitely going to be a boost for our business, especially,” McMahon said. So looking forward to it. Can’t wait.”

This deal won’t get through this legislative session, so again, there will be a special one in May.

Under the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Department of the Interior must also give its okay on the deal.

Governor DeSantis expects legal sports betting to take off by the summer.

Author: TERRY SPENCER and BOBBY CAINA CALVAN / AP; Sydney Persing and Justin Kase/ WINK News
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