Tallahassee - The agreement Gov. Charlie Crist signed with the Seminole Tribe that allows expanded gambling at seven Indian casinos around the state officially took effect Monday when the compact was published in the Federal Register.
But that doesn't mean gamblers can head straight over to the Hard Rock casinos in Hollywood and Tampa and the tribe's other gambling halls and start playing Las Vegas-style slots, blackjack and other card games.
"The tribe is obviously moving ahead and ordering equipment and hiring and training dealers, but it's unlikely there will be any games operating within the next few months," said tribe spokesman Gary Bitner.
It does mean that the state has $50 million more, the amount the tribe agreed to immediately pay the state once the compact took effect.
Crist said the money "is just the beginning of revenue that will potentially provide billions of dollars to Florida's schools during the next 25 years. While the Legislature holds the authority to appropriate these funds, I am confident they will use the power of the purse to improve the quality of life of Floridians for generations to come."
That money, though, could be heading back to the tribe if legislative leaders are successful in challenging the agreement before the state Supreme Court. House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, and Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, say Crist didn't have authority to sign the compact without legislative approval. The court will listen to their arguments Jan. 30.
If the compact is found valid, the state will get a cut of gambling revenues from the tribe as part of the agreement Crist signed in November.
Without the compact, the tribe would have at least been able to install Las Vegas-style slots without paying any money to the state because Florida approved slots at Broward County jai-alai frontons and horse and dog tracks. But games like blackjack and baccarat, which aren't allowed elsewhere in Florida, sweeten the deal for the tribe, as well as assurances state law won't be expanded to allow competing games on non-Indian land.
Although it looks like the Las Vegas style slot machines and games will be installed sometime later this year, the exact date when this begins is still unknown. The moment this blog receives that information, we will make it available to you.