The November 22 court rejection of the gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state is currently under appeal by the tribe, as well as the Department of Interior. The case is back in court and a decision is expected within the next couple of months.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) has long regulated state gambling laws. However, this responsibility is being transferred to the new commission.
Senator Jeff Brandes has expressed doubts about the need for a gaming commission since it's never been needed before. He repeated that sentiment Thursday on the Senate's floor.
He asked during the legislative session, "What does the Gaming Commission do now do that there's no compact? Do they have a real job? Is this the best job in the state of Florida, to be on the Gaming Commission?"
Senator Travis Hutson, who introduced the regulator concept, replied back with a non-answer, saying, "I think the best job in the state of Florida is to be a Florida senator."
Brandes responded, "You definitely have to do more work as a senator than you're going have to do on the gaming commission."
Hutson stated that the duties of the newly formed gaming commission are currently to shift from the DBPR to another division over casinos and parimutuels.
The Senate voted 37-2 for the gaming commission legislation. Brandes voted against it along with Senator Audrey Gibson. The legislation must be approved by the House.
If approved, the Senate must confirm the five members of the commission. A legislative analysis revealed that the legislation eliminated the requirement that all members of the commission must be from the five appellate district districts.
Governor Ron DeSantis has already named three members of the five-person commission. All are from the DBPR. According to the governor's office, they are Julie Brown, the DBPR Secretary, Charles Drago and Michael Yaworsky. The latter two are former DBPT executives. The two remaining seats are vacant.
The compact legalized sports betting in the state -- under the exclusive auspices of the Seminole Tribe. It gave the tribe control over the facilities that could offer betting and authorized the tribe's construction of new casinos. It also allowed it to start playing illegal games at its casinos. However, a federal lawsuit blocking the compact was upheld by a judge.
Gary Bitner, the Seminole Tribe's spokesperson, said that tribes generally do not fall under state regulatory laws. However, he wasn't sure how Florida's gaming commission would affect the tribe's gambling operations.
In the interim, he stated that the tribe would continue to pay state payments under the new compact, pending the outcome on the appeal of the ruling which invalidated the agreement. The 2021 Compact calls for payments of $500 million per annum and a minimum amount of $2.5 billion over five years.