Tea Party, Scott at odds over expanding non-Indian


Tea Party, Scott at odds over expanding non-Indian
casinos

Florida Indian casino gaming revenue grew at a slower rate in 2009 than in 2008, but posted a 10 percent gain to $2 billion in 2009, the Indian Gaming Industry Report published this month stated.
Florida Indian casino gaming revenue grew at a slower
rate in 2009 than in 2008, but posted a 10 percent gain to $2 billion in 2009,
the Indian Gaming Industry Report published this month
stated.

TAMPA – A battle that’s shaping up in
Tallahassee could pit state Tea Party activists against Gov. Rick Scott and Las
Vegas casino lobbyists, and state legislators against The Seminole Tribe of
Florida.

The fate of a bill introduced to
allow Las Vegas-style, non-Indian casino gambling in Florida could shape the
creation of hundreds of jobs and determine whose pockets and coffers millions of
dollars of potential gambling revenue will land.

Scott indicated in January he was
open to allowing casino gambling resorts in Florida despite indicating during
his campaign he opposed relying on gambling for state revenue.

Earlier this month, two state
senators filed legislation that would allow five Las Vegas-style casino hotels
in Florida, a measure the Seminole Tribe of Florida said it would
oppose.

This week, however, South Florida Tea
Party chairman Everett Wilkinson wrote state Senate President Mike Haridopolos
that the casino bill before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee would cost
the state $1.8 billion in lost Indian gaming revenue if it was passed and signed
into law as written.

“Passage of the Las Vegas Sands
casino bill legalizing casinos outside of Dade and Broward would immediately end
the Seminoles requirement to pay the state,” the letter dated Monday and posted
on the Tea Party’s web site said.

“It would be five years before the
first casino opened. The state would lose $378 million or more each year. The
one time $50 million licensing fees for the five casinos anticipated in the bill
would not come close to making up this revenue loss, nor is it likely five
casinos would ever be licensed.”

Wilkinson questioned whether the new
casinos, once open, could replace the revenue from the Seminoles at the 10
percent tax rate on casinos proposed under the Sands bill.

“While many in the Tea Party movement
are libertarians who are not against the expansion of casino gambling per se,
this bill as drafted will increase Florida’s budget problems, not fix them,”
Wilkinson wrote.

“The large contributions to the
Republican Party of Florida and your U.S. Senate campaign from executives at the
Las Vegas Sands Corporation must also be viewed with suspicion if this bill
leaves committee,” he said.

Florida legislators in April 2010
entered into a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe that granted the tribe
exclusive rights to operate slot machines beyond Broward and Miami-Dade counties
for 20 years in exchange for Seminole payments sharing casino revenue with the
state.

It also granted the tribe exclusive
right to offer high stakes poker, blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer for five
years at all Seminole casinos except Brighton and Big Cypress.

Florida Indian casino gaming revenue
grew at a slower rate in 2009 than in 2008, but posted a 10 percent gain to $2
billion in 2009, the Indian Gaming Industry Report published this month
stated.

Florida’s growth opposed national
trends, which showed Indian gaming revenue declined 1 percent in 2009 compared
with the previous year to $26.4 billion, according to the report based on
independent, non-commissioned research by Alan Meister, an economist with Nathan
Associates Inc. of Irvine, Calif.

Meister cited the nation’s ailing
economy as the reason for the 2009 decline. He pointed out Florida’s 10 percent
revenue growth in 2009 lagged 18 percent growth in 2008 compared with the
previous year.

Florida ranked fourth nationwide in
Indian gaming in 2009. California was the national leader in Indian gaming
revenue with $6.9 billion in 2009, followed by Oklahoma with $3.1 billion and
Connecticut with $2.2 billion.

Meister said gaming expansions in
Florida, including a new hotel tower and increased gaming area size at the
Seminole Hard Rock Casino Tampa, is likely to fuel additional Indian gaming
growth in the state.

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