OPINION: Florida Seminole gambling compact reinforces a monopoly


The Seminole-Florida gambling compact stifles fair industry competition, stealing revenue that would benefit small vendors and their counties, like Hillsborough. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/Antoine Taveneaux

The U.S. Department of the Interior took no action to approve or disapprove a gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State of Florida, according to an Aug. 6 letter. As a result, the tribe gained exclusive rights to casino gaming and sports betting as initially approved by the Florida legislature on May 19.

The compact grants the Seminole tribe exclusive access to profit from slot machines, raffles and drawings, table games, fantasy sports contests and sports betting. The tribe will pay part of the profits to the state of Florida.

Florida should not be complicit in the formation of a monopoly, and the Seminole compact should gather widespread opposition in the Florida legislature.

The compact is a 30-year deal between the Seminoles and the state of Florida. The state will gain billions of dollars of the Seminole’s profits, but this money can be obtained through multiple vendors instead of one monopolizing group.

Ending the compact would not only benefit smaller gambling vendors, but Florida counties like Hillsborough would benefit from the added revenue and tourism to their resident casinos.

While the Seminole Tribe of Florida is a federally recognized tribal government and not a private company, its control over an entire industry such as sports betting enables the formation of a monopoly.

Judge Allen Winsor dismissed a case Magic City Casino filed against Gov. Ron DeSantis on Oct. 18. Winsor didn’t believe that the casino was affected by the state’s compact, despite it giving the Seminole tribe such an extreme advantage over other vendors.

The compact bill only received opposition in the Florida Senate from Republican Rep. Jeff Brandes, who later explained his decision.

“We should have free and open markets wherever we can. And if you don’t have to provide a monopoly to one vendor, why would we do that,” said Brandes in a May 19 interview with 10 Tampa Bay.

Since the compact has already been approved by the Legislature and governor, it can’t be deemed null even in the face of disapproval by legislators. Instead, the Florida Senate and House of Representatives must write new legislation that opposes the existing compact. Only through new legislation can the state of Florida encourage competition in casino gaming and sports betting.

Fair competition is crucial to our democracy and economy. By allowing this unfair advantage to continue, Florida is stifling the ability of smaller groups to compete.