A federal judge late last week refused to block approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior of Florida’s first gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe, and the final step in the approval process, a notice in the Federal Register, was published on Monday.

That paved the way for the Seminoles that same day to transfer $50 million to the state. The transfer was part of the compact the tribe negotiated with Gov. Charlie Crist in return for nearly exclusive rights to operate Class III, or Las Vegas-style slot machines, and card games such as baccarat, chemin de fer, and blackjack in seven existing gaming facilities on tribal lands.

The $50 million is “just the beginning of revenue that will potentially provide billions of dollars to Florida’s schools during the next 25 years,” Crist said in a statement.

In subsequent years, the state is guaranteed annual minimum payments of $100 million from the tribe. While the Legislature has yet to appropriate funds from the compact despite Crist’s desire that it be spent on public education, the new funding sources come at a time when Florida revenues are lagging.

The controversial compact is still subject to dispute in a lawsuit filed by Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who believes the governor overstepped his authority in negotiating the compact without the Legislature’s approval.

That has raised constitutional questions about its validity. The Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Jan. 30.


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