Tribe, Gov. Say Jobs Hang In Balance Of Compact Decision

Feb 1, 2016

Credit Michal Parzuchowski

In an effort to promote a proposed gaming agreement between Florida and the Seminole Indian Tribe, Gov. Rick Scott and representatives from the tribe met Monday. The group discussed the benefits of the compact, which include more money and more jobs, as well as a chance to retain the jobs the Seminole casinos currently provide.

As the governor takes his seat around a conference table for a presentation on the compact and a chance to hear from the employees whose jobs hang in the balance he and tribe leaders engage in a little chit chat about what comes next, with some saying they hope the governor has good news for them.

But while the governor insists the agreement is the best thing for the state, he stops short of delivering the good news tribe members are hoping for.

As you know the process is that we worked hard with you all to get this signed but now it’s up to the legislature. It’s over $3-billion over 7 years. The last compact was around $1-billion,” Scott says.

Scott’s says to him, jobs are one of the most important pieces of the proposed gambling agreement. He says getting the state, in his words “back to work,” has been his goal since 2010.

“This compact that I know the Seminoles and my office worked hard to make it happen will have a positive impact on job growth. My understanding, if it’s not renewed then it would impact 3,600 jobs. And if it is approved by the legislature would add about 4,800 direct and indirect permanent jobs and another 14,500 direct and indirect construction jobs,” Scott says.

During his visit Scott heard from Seminole casino employees, like Patricia Rodriguez who say they’re worried about what will happen if the legislature does not approve the compact. Rodriguez who is a table game manager was overcome by emotion when she told Scott about the opportunities her job with the tribe has afforded her.

The Seminoles estimate table games, like blackjack, make up about 30 percent of the play in their casinos. The portion of the compact that lets the tribe offer blackjack has expired. And if the new compact isn’t approved, officials say they could end up having to shut the tables down. That means workers like Rodriguez could lose their jobs. And Seminole Gaming President and CEO, Jim Allen, says the reach of table game shutdown could go even further. For example he says the jobs of workers at upscale casino restaurants could be cut as well.

“You know a lot of the table game customers, they are traditionally, not just in our operations, but throughout the United States, they are traditionally comped more. I don’t want to get in trouble with the slots customers, but that’s the ripple effect,” Allen says.

Allen says table game customers are a different clientele. And he says before the tribe could offer the games it didn’t have all the restaurants it does now.

If the new compact gets legislative approval, the Seminoles will be allowed to continue banked card games such as blackjack and will add craps and roulette to their current offerings.