BRADENTON, Fla. - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has signed a second, revised Indian gaming compact that could bring some much-needed funding into the state's coffers, but its fate may be in jeopardy.
Crist announced signing the new deal late Monday, saying it is projected to bring in about $6.8 billion over 20 years from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which would be allowed to offer some Las Vegas-style gambling at all seven of its gaming properties in the state.
The games include slot machines that don't take credit or debit cards, as well as banking or banked card games such as baccarat and blackjack.
Under the compact, Florida would receive an escalation percentage of the tribe's winnings. Of the proceeds received by the state, 97% would be designated for education funding while 3% would go to cities and counties in the areas where the Seminole's gaming activities take place.
"Over the last two months, my administration has in good faith negotiated with the Seminole Tribe of Florida a compact that will reap financial benefit to the people of Florida," Crist said in a statement. "The revenue-sharing between the tribe and the state will enable the state ... to invest in the future of Florida's children."
However, the state Legislature still must ratify the compact, which differs from ground rules that lawmakers had set earlier this year for Crist to negotiate a new agreement.
For example, lawmakers wanted the tribe to have expanded gambling authority at just three of its facilities, not seven. And the compact contains some exclusivity provisions for certain games that lawmakers did not want to grant because horse and dog tracks in the state also want some of the gaming options.
"This is a complex issue," Senate President Jeff Atwater said in response to Crist's signing of the latest agreement. Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul said they would review the compact and determine the next course of action.
The Legislature may be called into special session next month to approve or reject terms of the latest deal.
The compact has been controversial and costly since Crist approved the first one in November 2007. It was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court, which agreed with the Legislature that Crist did not have the authority to unilaterally negotiate a compact without the approval of lawmakers. Lawmakers also contended that the governor couldn't authorize games that were not allowed by Florida law.
If Crist and the Legislature cannot come to terms on the latest version of the compact, the U.S. Department of the Interior can step in. If it authorizes gambling on tribal land Florida would not receive any funding.