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New Gaming Deal Expands Gambling In Florida. But First, It Heads To Federal Officials For Approval

casino floor with slot machines
Seminole Hard Rock Tampa

A 30-year gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida would allow gambling options akin to those available in Las Vegas. It would also legalize sports betting.

Gambling is big business for the Seminole Tribe of Florida...and it’s about to get bigger.

Last week, state lawmakers approved a new compact with the tribe. The 30-year deal would let the Seminoles run sports betting operations across the state.

In turn, the tribe would pay Florida $500 million dollars a year in gambling revenue.

The deal still needs approval from federal officials, and legal challenges are likely.

On this week’s show, we look at the future and the past of Indian gaming in Florida.

First, host Bradley George speaks with Dara Kam, a reporter with the News Service of Florida.

Kam covered last week’s vote on the gaming compact in Tallahassee.

Most lawmakers had little time to understand the complexity of the 75-page agreement in three days, she said. But many signed off on it because of the revenue that the deal would provide for the state.

Later on, George talks with Jessica Cattelino, an associate professor of anthropology at UCLA.

Cattelino has studied the tribe’s history with gaming, and wrote about it in a book called “High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty.”

She said the Seminoles were among the first tribes to get into the gaming business.

It all started in 1980, with a bingo hall in Broward County.

They later expanded their casinos, first without the approval of Florida lawmakers and then with their sign off in the 2000s. That’s when the tribe and the state started agreeing to gaming compacts.

You can listen to George's full conversations with Kam and Cattelino above by clicking on the “Listen” button. Or you can listen on the WUSF app under “Programs & Podcasts.”

I was born and raised in North Carolina, but my career in public radio has taken me all over the Southeast: Nashville, Atlanta, Birmingham. Along the way, I’ve reported for NPR, Here and Now, BBC, and The Takeaway. I’ve also done quite a few stories for Marketplace.