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Florida Full Gambling Establishments Could Happen Soon

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Twenty years ago, the state of Florida voted down casino gambling by a margin of 2-1. Today, the prospects of statewide casino gambling are more than just a dream.

After Broward County approved Vegas style slots at pari-mutual locations, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is negotiating with the state to expand its gambling to include similar types of gambling.

Currently, the Seminole Tribe operates only bingo style slots, meaning that machines are connected and there must be multiple players in order to operate, and the payouts are relatively low. This has not stopped the Seminoles from exceeding the revenues generated by the newly licensed, state approved facilities located at various pari-mutuals.

Currently the state of Florida is in negotiations with the Seminole Tribe to allow full casino action on its lands. It is a move that has caused the state to sit back and think hard about the outcome.

Florida is attempting to get revenue from the tribe. Currently, there is no tax or revenue scheme in place, as the Indians are exempt from this. Governor Charlie Crist is said to be contemplating how, if approved, the state might benefit.

After voters approved an amendment last year to allow high stakes Vegas style slots in South Florida, the door opened for the Seminole Tribe to file a federal lawsuit demanding the same class of gambling at its seven Florida casinos.

The state is in delicate negotiations with the Tribe. Florida wants a percentage of the tribe’s gambling revenues. If the State demands too much, it could cause the Seminoles to proceed with a federal lawsuit and cut the state out entirely.

The State of Florida has to make it attractive for the Seminoles not to do this. That may come in the form of full-blown casino action to include all types of table games and slots.

Under current law, the Seminoles are allowed to offer only the types of gaming that is available elsewhere in the state and they are not taxed, leaving Florida without much needed dollars to fund projects and services within the State.

A Treaty with the United States government states that if certain classes of gambling are allowed, then all gambling in that class is available to the Seminoles. Vegas style slots on its face, allow the Indian tribe to open up table games such as blackjack, roulette, craps and various other table games.

"Whether it has recognized the fact, Florida is on the verge of a major expansion of legalized gambling," said Joseph Weinert of Spectrum Gaming Group. "In five years there will be widespread casino gambling in Florida."

The public is pressuring Florida for more government services and lower taxes, which is fueling the interest of lawmakers for statewide gambling as a means to provide this.

Gambling could be just what the doctor ordered to cure the ailing tourism strips in Osceola and Daytona Beach, which is in an economic downturn.

The Seminole's currently bring in approximately $1 billion annually (which is not taxed) and has plans to expand it's Hard Rock Hotel and Casino brand and build it into a gambling empire.

"Legalized gambling is a me-too phenomenon," says Weinert. "If a neighboring market has it, then you want it. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is difficult to stop this type of enterprise from growing."

The Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau is ecstatic over plans by the Seminoles to expand the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, saying the "casino expansion will add a lot of glamour to Tampa as a destination."

Weinert predicts the tribe will eventually compete with Las Vegas and Atlantic City because Florida is already an attractive destination state.

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