Tribal representatives hand-delivered a letter to DeSantis on May 14, , explaining their position. The argument is not unique to Florida — California tribes have long been at odds with the state over card rooms, and in Washington State , lawmakers did grant sports betting exclusivity to federally recognized tribes and let a bill to allow commercial sports betting at card rooms die.
Reeg on the potential of sports betting in Florida: "Florida is an interesting place. Every legislative session our lobbyists are super optimistic and by the end of the session, they say we just couldn't get anything done. Given the changing landscape, the Seminoles and the state are back at the table trying to hammer out details of a compact that could include not only sports wagering, but online gambling as well.
The compact will be a priority ahead of legislative action, and while some sources say a new compact could be negotiated within the next month, the legislative session is only 60 days long and has an April 30 adjournment date. SB , introduced by Sen. The current compact , which was signed on April 7, , allows the Seminoles to withhold payments if the compact is violated.
Before the Seminoles suspended payments in , the tribe had reached a tentative agreement with Sen. The deal ultimately collapsed. Then, last January, Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, filed HB , a proposed compact that would have granted the Seminoles exclusivity for online sports betting. Brandes, who filed a sports betting bill for the upcoming session, told Sports Handle Monday that if a new compact provides the Seminoles with exclusivity for online casino operations across the state, then the payments would be radically higher.
And many use that hand-held casino to bet illegally online or in legal states. JeffreyBrandes State Senator Brandes, is there a legitimate hope that sports betting will arrive in Florida by or is that just a pipedream? I cannot believe our state passes on the potential windfall from this venture. I, for one, go offshore. Many I know go to GA. But this time around, given budget concerns on both sides, the timeline will likely be compressed.
In states with or without tribes, it often takes multiple sessions to educate lawmakers on sports betting or iGaming before a bill can move. In Michigan , lawmakers not only needed multiple sessions, but suffered through a veto before finally getting sports wagering and iGaming legislation signed by a governor.
In Florida, bills were filed in , but there was little progress, meaning that education is still a work in progress. The latest trio of bills filed by Reps. Besides that, sports betting would be available at tracks offering parimutuel betting horse and dog , jai lai frontons, and tribal casinos. Lamarca filed the key bill, HB , last Friday, along with HB , which sets the tax rate on gross revenue at Neither Lamarca nor Brandes had contact with the Seminoles while crafting their bills.
And the tribe is on record as having no comment about about the proposals. The proposed legislation does not have a cap on the number of mobile sports betting licenses the department would award. Brandes, a Republican, does not oppose a crowded marketplace for legal sports betting in Florida as long as an operator can qualify for a license through the lottery.
Brandes also indicated that there is a model for both the tribes and national sportsbook operators to share the revenue from sports betting equitably. The Florida-based bettor placed the wagers on his DraftKings New Jersey mobile account through a proxy located in the Garden State, multiple sources confirmed. The customer partook in an activity known as messenger betting, which runs afoul of numerous state and federal laws.
His company, Trading Cove Associates, also operated and managed the casino when it opened in October The payments to the Cordish Co. I think a lot of people are surprised," said DeRosa, the Cabazon Tribe's manager. They don't need anyone's help. Allen, worked for Kerzner for six years and is often cited by investors as a key factor in the tribe's ability to win the trust of Wall Street. Allen spent a year working on the Hard Rock project as a Cordish employee but now works solely for the tribe.
Another California tribe, the Augustine Band of Mission Indians, was approached about three years ago by business partners of the Cordish Co. Tribal officials say they were offered a consulting agreement that would have paid the developer 30 percent of the net profits, similar to Cordish's deal with the Seminoles. The tribe rejected the offer. But Coleman said that the Coconut Creek payments were excessive, given the Seminole Tribe's successful history of operating casinos, its considerable financial resources and the favorable market conditions in South Florida.
The tribe severed its relationship with the developer in , became sole operator of the casino and stopped paying the company a share of the profits. The matter is being pursued in court. Even before regulatory issues came into play, the plan to build the Seminole Hard Rock casinos was delicate on several levels, among them the decision to finance the project with tax-exempt municipal bonds.
As a municipal entity, which has more lenient tax rules, Gulf Breeze was able to issue tax-exempt bonds for the project by designating it as an economic development initiative. The agency then lent the proceeds back to the tribe. An IRS spokeswoman said the agency is studying the "gray areas" of the tax code invoked to justify the tax-exempt status. If the IRS were to declare that the bonds are taxable, the tribe could be forced to refund the investment of bondholders or reach a settlement with the government to compensate for the lost tax revenue.
Attorneys who worked on the deal considered the tax-exempt arrangement to be vital to the project, since the bonds offered investors the taxable equivalent to a roughly 16 percent annual return, making the Seminole Tribe's problems far easier to swallow on Wall Street.
And while the IRS has a procedure for granting prior approval to complicated or unusual tax deals, the developers chose not to seek the agency's opinion - another "risk factor" that is listed in the bond prospectus. Even one of the bond's investors considers the financing arrangement rather tenuous. Tax-exempt bonds cannot be used to benefit private companies, so a typical management contract might have precluded their use.
Cordish's deal with the tribe thus had to be structured solely as a consulting agreement. Sunita Lough, a tax-exempt bond specialist for the IRS, said a deal like the Hard Rock project is rarely submitted for prior approval. Instead, lenders rely, as the Cordish Co. Such a deal, she said, is unlikely to be reviewed unless it pops up during a random audit. She also cautioned against assuming that the lawyers in the Seminole deal got it right.
Essentially, they're taking a chance. While Cordish, 64, has acquired a squeaky-clean business image, gaining nationwide acclaim as a bold and creative specialist in urban renewal, the Seminole deal has him rolling dice with a tribe known for sparring with the government, spending excessively and scuffling with the law.
I feel better about this project than any project we've ever done. But it's also a plain, ordinary business deal. Seminole leaders take a similar position. So blurry is the early history between the Baltimore development firm and the Seminole Tribe that two of the most conspicuous figures don't even agree on whether they've met. Asked his impression of Billie, Cordish replied, "I'll never forget the first time I met him," noting one of his trademarks - the finger that he lost to an alligator in early For months Billie kept it in a vial, sometimes wearing it around his neck, and talked of displaying it at the tribe's Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Indian Museum.
Chairman, what happened? And this is one that I lost. The Hollywood casino was old and smoky and needed an upgrade. The chief imagined something spectacular, with lakes and a fountain and a 2,room hotel. After checking with industry consultants, Billie says he concluded that David Cordish was the right man to help him get it.
According to legal documents that discuss subsequent changes, that initial contract would have paid Power Plant 17 percent of the two casinos' gross gambling revenue after debt payments. Timothy W. Cox, a former Seminole official who helped negotiate the contracts, said the payments were to last 15 years, but the duration is not mentioned in public documents.
Within months of signing the deal, Billie began to encounter political turbulence from the other four elected members of the tribal council. Unhappy with his oversight of tribal finances - and his control over their personal spending - the council members began taking the unprecedented position of overruling their longtime chairman on matters of operations and finance. Members reportedly encouraged a former employee to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Billie.
The woman, who alleged that she had had a sexual relationship with Billie and that he forced her to have an abortion, swore in an affidavit in a federal lawsuit Billie later filed against the tribe that she had lodged her complaint at the urging of tribal officials. The council began to look into the financing of Billie's other business dealings, including an Internet gambling operation in Belize and a hotel in Nicaragua where the Cordish Co.
The Central American deals would lead to the federal indictment of Cox and two other Billie associates on embezzlement, money laundering and conspiracy charges. All were exonerated after Billie testified that he had approved the transactions. On May 24, , citing the sexual harassment complaint and the tribal investigation of his finances, the other four members of the tribal council, by a unanimous vote, suspended Billie from office.
Terms of the deal Four months later the Cordish Co. And comparing casino deals can be trickier, because income projections are fluid and contracts use different definitions for key elements such as "net revenue. For instance, in response to the suggestion that outside analysts consider his contracts exceptionally lucrative, Cordish said: "Do they know that I'm paying half of the debt service on those bonds?
Well, I am. Call Merrill Lynch, call the tribe. Anybody will tell you, 'Yes, they're paying half of the debt service. Neither is any such payment mentioned in the bond-offering documents or Cordish Co. Tribal officials did not respond to repeated requests to discuss the Hard Rock deal in detail.
That doesn't exist normally. I have to create, over 10 years, a defeasance fund to take out the bonds. Not the Seminoles. That has to come out of any profit I make. And if I don't make a profit to cover the defeasance fund, I just have to put it up myself. The master bond agreement, he said, explains that the set-aside fund is paid solely out of "pledged revenues" - directly from the gambling revenue of the tribe, and before the Cordish Co. And before both projects are completed, the Cordish Co.
Since late , the Cordish Co. The true value of the deal will be realized once the projects are fully open. According to estimates published with the bond sale, the Cordish Co. Even after it no longer shares in the tribe's casino winnings, the Cordish Co. The Hard Rock projects, Cordish said, have "wonderful fundamentals. We're going to deliver what we said; it is going to make this an entirely different place.
Customers often remark about his fallen celebrity, he says. And they ask to see the hand with the missing finger. After a two-year suspension, Billie was formally removed from office in March The sexual harassment suit was dismissed because the alleged events took place on tribal land. The former Seminole chief says he isn't bitter about his fate. Cordish remains busy as always, working "hour weeks" and overseeing new commercial projects in Rochester, N.
He says he has a plan for developing casinos in Maryland if the legislature legalizes such gambling, and that he might offer to do it for free. He predicts the Seminole Hard Rock projects will be among the most impressive and successful on his resume. I think we can. And if we do, we'll be rewarded. And anywhere along the line, going back to the beginning, we slip, we'd lose a fortune.
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