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Pari-mutuels Would Also Gain from Compact Compromise

A day after House and Senate negotiators cemented a tentative deal with the tribe for gambling at its seven casinos, owners of non-Indian facilities were evaluating what’s in it for them.
 
With lower tax rates in South Florida, expanded hours and higher poker limits statewide and the possibility of more games down the road, non-Indian facilities did not come out of negotiations empty handed, said Danny Adkins, chief gaming executive at Mardi Gras Racetrack and Gaming in Hallandale Beach. Adkins said lawmakers did a good job responding to the demands of a sovereign nation and an important non-Indian industry that employs thousands of workers and pays millions in taxes.
 
“They didn’t make anybody totally happy and didn’t make anybody really unhappy,” Adkins said. “They played it pretty fair and they left the door open.”
 
A compromise measure reached Wednesday more closely mirrors a conservative approach endorsed by House negotiators that limits the expansion of gambling at Indian-run casinos and their non-Indian competitors.

An earlier Senate proposal had called for a wide expansion of gaming at non-Indian facilities including the addition of slot machines and blackjack at all existing horse tracks, dog tracks and jai alai frontons. The House did not.
 
The proposed pari-mutuel provisions would:
 
- Allow slot machines in Broward and Miami Dade Counties and reduce tax rates there from 50 percent to 35 percent on slot revenue.
 
-Maintain the statewide prohibition on electronic gaming.
 
-Allow slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties where voters approve by referendum without an automatic nullification of the Seminole compact.
 
-Maintain a prohibition on historic racing at all tracks. Historic racing, or instant racing, is a relatively new product.  Terminals randomly select a race from an archive of thousands of races from across the country. Customers review the odds and statistics for each horse before placing their bets.
 
-Allow no-limit poker at existing pari-mutuels. Hours extended to 18 hours a day Monday through Friday and 24 hours a day Saturday and Sunday.
 
For tracks outside of South Florida, the agreement brings the opportunity for additional revenue and more than a little hope. Unlike the original compact, which prohibited any type of expanded gaming outside of Miami-Dade and Broward, the compromise measure, if approved, would not preclude gaming in existing pari-mutuels if voters or the Legislature approves.
 
“It means that we get to live to fight another day,” said Christian Ulvert a spokesman for the Naples/Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Bonita Springs. “That’s important to us because we have a community at our track with people who depend on their jobs… We’re encouraged that we weren’t shut out.”
 
The measure must be approved by lawmakers, and a vote on it is expected Friday. Lawmakers will have another chance to review the compact when it comes back for ratification after Crist cuts another deal. The Seminoles would also have to agree.

“We sincerely appreciate the tireless efforts by the Governor and the leaders of the Florida Legislature to agree on the terms of a bill,” said Max Osceola, Seminole tribal council representative. “With this agreement, the governor can now finalize a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.”

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