Governor Charlie Crist is faced with a dilemma. He is required by federal law to negotiate with the Seminole Indian tribe over expanded gambling. However, the parameters of those negotiations are not clearly defined by federal law. The 1988 Indian and Gaming Regulatory Act [IGRA] is the law in question and what that law truly means to Governors and state legislatures is a matter that has never fully been tested in the Courts or fully debated by the Congress.
The Seminoles are demanding more gambling rights based on the escalation of legal gambling when slot machines were authorized for a single Florida county. The question is whether or not expanding casino-style gambling is good for the state of Florida.
“It appears the Governor is looking at the wrong side of this equation” stated Elaine Merritt, Legislative Director for the Florida Policy Roundtable. “The Governor is talking about fixing a hole in the state budget with taxes from tribal gambling revenues. That formula forgets an essential fact. The dollars lost in tribal casinos are dollars lost to Florida’s economy – especially to tourism. Expanded gambling will hurt existing Florida attractions and communities. There will be a serious downside to this transfer of dollars which could create another hole in the state budget and require increased taxes. ”
This problem could easily accelerate as non-tribal gambling venues seek to compete with tribal casinos. This will quickly become a downward cycle – a race to the bottom as Florida race tracks demand parity with the tribal gambling. The Statehouse is already filled with such conversation.
There is a possible alternative for the Governor. He can call upon the legislature for help. If the Legislature concludes expanded gambling is not the best policy for Florida they have the Constitutional responsibility to protect the state economy. Such legislative action will set up a conflict between the negotiation process established in the 1988 Indian Gaming and Regulatory Act and state law.
“It is highly doubtful Congress intended to damage Florida’s tourism economy when they passed IGRA in 1988” Merritt added. “Perhaps its time to take this whole question back to Congress and the Courts. It is just plain wrong to force an elected Governor to expand gambling that will hurt his own state and people.”
What you can do:
Floridians - and every American who wishes Florida to remain a great vacation place for families - need to immediately contact Governor Charlie Crist and their state legislators. Encourage them to stand firm against carte blanche gambling expansion for the Seminole Tribe and all other forms of gambling expansion.