Q&A: State currently limits cards, Vegas-style slots

By STEVE HUETTEL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 15, 2007

What kinds of casino games are legal now in Florida?

Poker is allowed at parimutuels (horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons). Three Broward County racetracks got Las Vegas-style (Class III) slot machines after county voters approved a local option referendum in 2005.

The Seminole and Miccosukee Indians have bingo-based Class II machines and poker.

Florida-based gambling boats offer table games such as blackjack and roulette outside state waters, but they are illegal in the state.

What's the difference between Class II and Class III machines?

Class II machines look like a regular slot but actually show the results of a bingo game between gamblers located near each other, with the casino taking a cut of the pot. Players bet against the casino on Class III machines. Experts say this generates more revenue than bingo machines and therefore more expensive payouts.

Would the compact announced Wednesday lead to expanded gambling outside Indian casinos?

Not likely. Parimutuel owners argue that the deal, particularly the addition of new card games, will give the Seminoles an unfair competitive advantage. Some state lawmakers are talking about legislation to give them new games, like video lottery terminals. But House leaders oppose expanded gambling, and the Seminoles could cut off payments to the state if the devices are sanctioned.

How big a cut will Florida get from the new games?

At least $100-million the first year, $125-million in the second year and $150-million in the third year. But the state's take could be about $230-million in the third year and $400-million in the fourth year, says James Allen, chief executive of the tribe's gaming operations.

When will the new games be available to play?

Too soon to say, according to Seminole officials. But it's unlikely it would happen before 2008. The Department of the Interior has 45 days to ratify the compact.

What could prevent that from happening?

Various groups, including the state Legislature and the attorney general, have threatened legal action. The Legislature maintains it has the right to approve the compact. It's unclear whether those suits, if filed, could delay approval by the federal government.