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The Seminole Gaming Compact Not the Answer to Florida’s Fiscal Crisis says AIF, Florida’s Major Business Advocacy Group

September 21, 2009

Compact Must Be Amended To Increase Payments to State and Protect Florida’s Pari-mutuel Industry

TALLAHASSE, Fla. -- September 21, 2009 -- Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today joined a growing number of vocal opponents of the recently signed -- but not yet Legislatively approved -- Seminole Indian Gaming compact. 

“On behalf of AIF and our members across the state of Florida, I urge our State Legislators to oppose this proposed compact said Barney T. Bishop III, President & CEO of AIF. 

“While we support granting the Seminoles one unique feature in their gaming options, we strongly object to the needlessly sweeping exclusivity proposed in the draft compact,” said Bishop.

“We do not believe the Florida legislature should bow to the monopolistic wishes of this large gaming entity,” Bishop said. “The granting of such an extreme degree of exclusivity for electronic games would create a wholly undeserved and unfair advantage to the Seminole facilities that would further erode our state’s pari-mutuel industry. And this unfair advantage could extend to other enterprises at Seminole facilities (food service, hotel facilities, retail shops and so forth) that compete with nearby businesses subject to the full array of taxes.”

“In addition,” said Bishop, “we cannot understand why the state would even consider granting such a great benefit to one organization for the relatively insignificant fee of $150 million per year and then cap that fee even as the proceeds grow.” 

Bishop noted that two Connecticut tribal casinos last year paid over $411 million to the State of Connecticut for the right to operate. Adjusting for the difference between the budgets of the two states (roughly $20 billion for Connecticut vs. close to $70 billion for Florida) the Connecticut tribal casinos pay over nine times more in fees than the fees proposed in Florida for the Seminoles.

The inadequacy of this fee payment is further compounded by freezing the fee and not allowing it to grow over time as proceeds grow. Equity dictates that the Seminoles pay the same 35% of their proceeds as paid by Florida’s pari-mutuels.

The proposed compact must be ratified by the Florida legislature before going into effect.  A number of legislative leaders including Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach) and Rep Bill Galvano (R- Bradenton), the leading House negotiator on the Seminole gaming issue, have expressed serious concerns regarding the current version of the compact.

Commenting further on the negative effects of the proposed compact on Florida’s pari-mutuel industry, Bishop noted: “In 2007-2008, revenue to the state from the pari-mutuel industry was $167.8 million.  Giving the Seminoles such an unfair competitive advantage as is proposed in the draft compact would put this tax revenue for the state in jeopardy and could very well lead to the demise of an industry that has been around for almost a century.

According to a recent March, 2009 Florida TaxWatch Study, “the total revenue losses to the State attributable to the expanded gaming at the Seminole casinos over ten years are estimated at $713 million.”  This projection only reflects slot machine revenue losses at South Florida tracks and not the total statewide impact.

“The State of Florida cannot turn its back on an industry that generates so much revenue and over 30,000 good paying jobs for Floridians across this state,” said Bishop. “To the contrary, establishing a pathway towards electronic gaming for existing permit holders has the potential to generate more tax revenue than the existing compact and create jobs that are desperately needed.”