An employee political action committee (PAC) launched in June by the Seminole Tribe of Florida to ward off expanded gaming in the Sunshine State has received $3,144 in contributions as of September 28, according to the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections.
The tribe announced the PAC, called the Seminole Tribe Employee Political Action Committee, in a memo dated June 5, 2012, and distributed, with a contribution form, to the tribe’s 10,000-plus employees. “Earlier this year we saw a number of high profile companies express their desire to operate casinos in the state of Florida,” Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen said in the memo, which was posted on Florida Gaming Watch in June. He goes on to say, “As you know this issue died in the last legislative session but I can assure you it is not over.”
The memo also states, “The money you donate will be used to protect the interests of our business and serve to protect our jobs and futures” and that “participation is voluntary.” The form provides contribution amounts of $1, $2.50, $5, $10 and “Other,” to be deducted from the employee’s paycheck. Employees are also given the choice of contributing to Friends of the Seminole Tribe CCE (committee of continuous existence) created in 2010 to promote the tribe’s heritage and history.
Gary Bitner, with Bitner Goodman and the tribe’s spokesperson, told ICTM via email that it is still very early in the process with the employee PAC. “The PAC is meant to be more of a long-term program,” he said.
Companies interested in developing large-scale casino/resorts in Florida include Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International and Malaysia-based Genting Group. In May 2011, Genting acquired 13.9 acres of waterfront property in Miami for the sum of $236 million and a few months later announced a $3 billion master plan, featuring 5,200 rooms spread across four hotels, residential units, retail venues, restaurants, bars, convention/meeting space and a casino, should the day come when Florida lawmakers approve the development of additional casino/resorts.
The tribe owns/operates seven class III casinos in Florida, generating about $2 billion in revenues in 2009. They include the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino complexes in Tampa and Hollywood. Under a compact signed in 2010, the tribe guaranteed to the state at least $1 billion in payments over the next five years ($150 million paid annually for the first two years, this year the payment increases to $233 million). Besides the tribe’s gaming facilities, there are five commercial casinos with class III slots in the state, all operating at race tracks in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.