Lawmakers won’t bet on Seminole Compact money in the 2022 budget

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 5:51 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB ) - When lawmakers return in January and begin crafting the 2022 budget, they will be anticipating a $500 million hole, caused by the state’s compact with the Seminole Tribe being struck down by a federal judge.

A legal resolution is not likely to come before lawmakers gavel out in early March.

This spring, the Governor and the Legislature touted a historic deal with the Seminole Tribe that promised to bring in $500 million a year.

With the compact currently entangled in a legal battle, lawmakers do not plan to bank on that revenue when crafting the state budget.

“We’re gonna have to assume we’re not getting that $500 million,” said State Representative Randy Fine.

Fine said that $500 million could have gone a long way.

“To put even more money in reserves, or to cut taxes, or to spend more money on other critical priorities,” said Fine.

The compact was struck down because it allowed for sports betting off of tribal lands.

Governor Ron DeSantis said he expects a national push to have the ruling reversed.

“There’s a lot of Indian tribes across the country who are looking at this decision saying, whoa, that was not something that was good,” said DeSantis.

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Fine argues the compact was designed to survive, even if a portion was struck down.

He lays blame on the Biden Administration for failing to make that argument in court.

“It was either an intentional effort to hurt Floridians or some of the greatest legal malpractice in legal history,” said Fine.

While Republicans are blaming the Biden Administration for the undesirable ruling, Democrats in Florida say it’s ultimately Republicans who bare responsibility for the compact falling through.

“The fact that my colleagues on the right kept saying this was not an expansion of gambling was false and unfortunately a judge agreed,” said State Representative Anna Eskamani.

Before the compact was struck down the Tribe had already paid the state $75 million.

In an emailed statement, tidal spokesperson Gary Bitner said the tribe does plan to appeal the ruling.

“The Seminole Tribe looks forward to working with the State of Florida and the U.S. Department of Justice to aggressively defend the validity of the 2021 Compact before the Appeals Court, which has yet to rule on the merits of the 2021 Compact. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, the State of Florida and the United States have all taken the position that the 2021 Compact is legal,” said Bitner.

It is unclear whether the tribe intends to keep paying as the court battle continues.

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