Governor signs Senate gambling bill

Governor Charlie Crist’s office reported to Historic City News that the Governor signed Senate Bill 788 today which outlines the parameters for a 15-year compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida — maximizing funding for K-12 public schools.

To emphasize the benefit to Florida’s students and teachers, the Governor signed the legislation at Design & Architecture Senior High School, a magnet school for the visual arts located on a three-acre campus in Miami’s design neighborhood.

“I am grateful to the Florida Legislature and the Seminole Tribe of Florida for their desire to provide much-needed funds for the children of our state,” Governor Crist said. “A ratified agreement will provide much needed revenue that can help us develop world-class schools throughout the Sunshine State.”

Last week, Newsweek magazine ranked Design & Architecture Senior High School (DASH) 99th in the nation. The ranking was based on a Challenge Index that takes the number of college preparatory tests taken by all students at a school in 2008 divided by the number of graduating seniors. Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge tests were considered.

The legislation authorizes the Governor to negotiate a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida by August 31, 2009. In exchange for significant sharing of profits, the agreement will give the tribe the right to operate certain games in the seven facilities on tribal lands. The Legislature must ratify the agreement, which will create revenue for the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.

The compact will guarantee a minimum payment of $150 million annually under the parameters outlined in the legislation. In addition, the Tribe is required to make revenue sharing payments to the State of Florida based on the following annual amounts:

· 12 percent of profits up to $2.5 billion.
· 15 percent of profits between $2.5 billion and $3 billion.
· 20 percent of profits between $3 billion and $4 billion.
· 22.5 percent of profits between $4 billion and 4.5 billion.
· 25 percent of any profits above $4.5 billion.

The agreement also requires the Seminole Tribe of Florida to develop a compulsive gambling prevention program; submit records to an independent annual financial audit; and maintain a legal process for compensating individuals for injuries caused to patrons. The tribe will also limit admission to patrons age 21 and older.

Indian gaming casinos on Indian reservations fall under federal jurisdiction. The compact is required for the Seminole Tribe to offer “Class III gaming,” which includes including baccarat, chemin de fer, and blackjack. Class III games will be limited to tribal reservations only. Governor Crist commented that the federal government is likely to allow the tribe to operate Class III gaming, even if the state and tribe do not come to an agreement for profit sharing or oversight.

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