Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is once again stepping into the gambling industry fray, meeting Thursday with representatives from companies that operate in the state, Politico Pro reported. DeSantis is hoping to bring all the sides together, including the parimutuel wagering and card room facilities, to hammer out a deal to get gambling legislation in front of state lawmakers before the end of the 2021 session, which ends April 30. Negotiations could result in an elusive deal to bring legal sports betting in some fashion to the third most populous state in the U.S.
This is at least the second time DeSantis has met with gambling stakeholders, as Politico noted that he recently sat down with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the federally recognized tribe that runs six of the state’s largest casinos, two of them using its Hard Rock brand. DeSantis’ meeting Thursday is expected to include the companies that run the parimutuel industry, wanting to get “a voice in the conversation” as well.
Notably, these meetings are taking place without lobbyists for the gambling interests, according to the article. Additionally, the governor’s office confirmed the meeting.
Indian tribes rule the roost
An important point to any negotiations — as noted in a Sports Handle article earlier this month — is that nothing is going to happen in regards to sports betting without the state’s tribes being on board. The most powerful tribe in the state is the Seminoles, and up until 2019, the tribe paid the state roughly $350 million a year for exclusivity on gaming. But two years ago, the Seminoles cut off the payments, claiming that the state breached the agreement by allowing banked card games at jai lai frontons and racetracks.
That same year, the tribe reached an agreement with Sen. Wilton Simpson, the president of the Florida Senate, that would have allowed sports betting at the Seminoles’ properties, as well as at racetracks and jai alai frontons. The deal eventually collapsed. Last year, a bill was filed that would’ve given the tribe exclusive rights to online sports betting, but the legislation never made it past the committee level.
In the meantime, sports betting seems to be on the lips of everyone in Florida, including the former First Family, as the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Eric Trump, son of former president Donald Trump, would like to see his family’s Doral golf resort become a gambling destination.
Eric Trump touts potential of family’s Doral golf resort as gambling destination as Florida Republicans consider expanding casinos https://t.co/HLtndGeSmL
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 17, 2021
While details are scant concerning the Trump family plans, one potential bit of future legislation might allow gambling licenses to be transferred around the state without local governments being able to intervene, according to the Post article.
Miami Beach officials are so concerned about a deal, however, that today they authorized hiring attorneys if need be to fight any proposed legislation. @MayorDanGelber complained about secret deals being hatched in mansions and on yachts
— Gary Fineout (@fineout) March 17, 2021
While the behind-the-scenes discussions take place, the actual legislation — should it happen — falls to Senate President Simpson.
And he’s not ready to talk.
“Gaming negotiations are extremely complicated, and while President Simpson believes the efforts are worthy, it is also important to be realistic about where we are,” said Katie Betta, a spokesperson for Simpson.
Meanwhile, the tale also now includes a new prominent figure located in Florida: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who brought home a Super Bowl title to the home team and hosting city in February in his first year with the franchise.
The Miami Herald reported on Wednesday that Brady has come aboard twice in recent months at functions hosted at friend and real estate mogul Jeff Soffer’s football-field size yacht Madsummer, where Soffer sought the ear of House Republican Speaker Chris Sprowls. The Herald writes that the 43-year-old NFL legend and supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen appeared, Brady as “a megawatt star, as a sort of celebrity lubricant” for influential politicians, as Soffer seeks to move the gears to bring a casino to the Soffer-owned Fontainebleau Miami Beach.
NEW: Tom Brady and a superyacht: How real estate mogul Jeff Soffer pitched Florida leaders @WiltonSimpson and @ChrisSprowls on letting him have a casino in Miami Beach https://t.co/StjzHyxn95
— Mary Ellen Klas (@MaryEllenKlas) March 17, 2021
“Things are moving forward in terms of progress on the discussions, but we’re just not there yet,’’ said Sen. Travis Hutson, who was involved with the gambling bill last year that went nowhere. “All those conversations have been going on for quite some time.”
“But time is of the essence here,” Hutson said, adding “if you don’t see anything in the next couple of weeks, we’re probably not doing anything at all.”