Florida lawmakers reconvene for special session on gambling

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers reconvene Monday for a special session to consider a new 30-year gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe that would expand gambling and legalize sports betting in the country’s third most populous state.

But the fate of the new compact is uncertain because of opposition from some business groups and legislative conservatives who object to expanding gambling on moral grounds and because of concerns over increased crime.

The deal would give the state at least $2.5 billion over the first five years and at least $6 billion from the Tribe by 2030. State officials say the pact would create 2,200 new jobs.

If the Legislature ratifies the agreement reached last month by the Tribe and Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Seminoles would be allowed to offer sports gambling at their casinos in South Florida and near Tampa. The tribe will also be allowed to introduce craps and roulette at its seven casinos, including the popular Hard Rock near Fort Lauderdale. And it would allow the tribe to add three additional facilities within its Hollywood Reservation.

The gaming industry has been a boon for the Seminoles. It has used its profits to pays its 4,100 members more than $100,000 annually and owns the Hard Rock brand worldwide.

The Legislature has set aside a week to consider the compact, but hopes to complete its work as soon as Wednesday. It also must be approved by the Seminole tribal council and the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations.

The Seminoles, invoking their sovereignty as a tribal nation, began their gambling operations with a high-stakes bingo parlor in 1979 and have been expanding ever since, adding slot machines, poker, blackjack and other card games.

Miami billionaire Norman Braman has vowed to challenge the compact in court if it is approved by the Legislature, arguing that elements of the compact would violate a 2018 initiative that put restrictions on the expansion of casino-style gambling.

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