Seminoles on gambling expansion: Hold. That. Line!By Nick Sortal, CDC Gaming ReportsNovember 21, 2017 at 11:04 pmIt’s football season, so let’s use football terms to look Florida gambling: the Seminole Tribe of Florida had a successful summer of playing offense. Now it’s time to invest in defense.Earlier this summer, the tribe and Florida Governor Rick Scott agreed to a lawsuit settlement that allows the Seminoles to operate blackjack and other table games through at least 2030. Having long-term certainty for its core revenue sources had long been a goal for the tribe. CEO Jim Allen has pointed to that settlement as a reason why the Seminoles are so comfortable forging ahead with expansion, including a $1.5 billion guitar-shaped hotel on their Hollywood property.The victory came after the tribe took legal action against the state, which allowed pari-mutuel card rooms to illegally operate what was determined to be house-banked games. Now the tribe has taken a further step to defend their turf. The Voters In Charge Committee, sponsors of the Voter Control of Gambling Amendment, announced last week that they had solicited support from the tribe, and had got it, in the form of a $1 million donation.The committee’s push for the amendment is framed as a way to protect the state from letting legislators determine what kind of gambling expansion Florida will undergo next. But it’s a thin veil for Orlando (read: Disney) interests. Orlando interests don’t want more gambling coming to the state because that could result in new convention spaces at resort-casinos, and that could mean siphoning off dollars that currently go to other places in the state.Gambling expansion is something the Seminoles also are against. They (kind of) face competition in South Florida, although their gambling revenues top what the eight horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons in the area take in – combined – via slots and poker. And they have a wonderful monopoly in Tampa, which is the closest venue for every Floridian outside of the southeast tip to frequent.Making nice with Disney makes sense to the Seminoles, if for no other reason than the concept that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In this case, the enemy is large hotel-resort casinos, though even without the amendment those would face a massive uphill battle should any Florida legislator again propose allowing them to plant a stake here in the Sunshine State. (Genting tried in 2010, and got crushed.) But getting a gambling amendment on the ballot – and approved – also would squash smaller casino endeavors, such as allowing now-barren counties to add slots to their pari-mutuels.The proposed amendment needs 766,200 signatures; it has 391,783 verified signers so far, notes John Sowinski, chairman of Voters in Charge. Disney and the Seminoles do face a threat, though, even if the amendment does get to the voters next year. This year’s legislature could eke through some form of expansion, the varieties of which are too plentiful to go into at this time. But the current legislative climate is tumultuous, to put it mildly. Tallahassee leaders are dealing with sexual harassment claims, and some carefully-formed alliances are fraying.Sowinski still warns against a “buzzer-beater,” that is, any late legislation passed in anticipation of the amendment being approved. In fact, he suggests that the amendment would “de-authorize” any further gambling creep allowed by the legislature, although he acknowledges that interpretation likely could end up in the courts.Sowinski notes that a 2010 compact between the Tribe and the State of Florida was intended to provide a firewall against the expansion of gambling throughout Florida. “But gambling lobbyists in Tallahassee continue to push expansion proposals that would violate the Seminole Compact and promises made to the people of Florida,” he says.Meanwhile, Governor Scott included the Seminoles’ compact money in his proposed $85 billion state budget for 2018-19. Payments are estimated to be $272.5 million for Fiscal Year 2017-18 and more than $280 million for Fiscal Year 2018-19.One could question whether those against gambling expansion even need an amendment, because getting the Rubik’s Cube just right for a legislative agreement is a puzzle that has yet to be solved, at least in recent years. But for Voters in Charge, getting $1 million, particularly from a source that has plenty more, certainly provides some muscle to oppose expansion.And in Tallahassee, even though it’s been a dismal football fall watching the collapse of the hometown Florida State Seminoles, almost everyone knows what a stout defense can do: produce a victory.