TALLAHASSEE – Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming and President of Hard Rock International, led the casino operations of the Seminole Tribe of Florida for two decades.
But its biggest hit could be a 30-year deal, known as the “compact,” which includes opening the door to sports betting in Florida.
Allen helped secure the deal between Governor Ron DeSantis and Tribal President Marcellus Osceola Jr. in April and persuaded lawmakers to approve the plan in a special legislative session last month.
As part of the pact, the Seminoles agreed to pay the state $ 2.5 billion over the first five years in exchange for control of online sports betting across Florida. The tribe will also enjoy other benefits, such as the ability to offer craps and roulette at their casinos.
The sports betting provision should, however, be challenged in court. In addition, the US Department of the Interior must approve the pact, and some experts say the deal violates federal law allowing gambling operations on tribal lands.
The deal replaces a 2010 pact that gave the tribe the “exclusive” right to operate bank card games, such as blackjack. But the Seminoles in 2019 stopped paying the state about $ 350 million a year due to a long-running dispute over the “designated player” card games offered in pari-mutuels across Florida.
Allen, 60, has more than four decades of experience in the gaming industry, and the tribe’s casino operations have grown in Florida, nationwide and internationally under his tenure at Seminole Gaming.
The Florida News Service has five questions for Jim Allen:
Q: You have been trying to finalize a revised pact with heads of state for at least five years, but you have encountered obstacles in the executive or legislative branches. What made the difference this year?
ALLEN: You know, I think in any law, whether it’s here in Florida or any state, I just think it’s part of the normal process, getting the three branches of government to come together. . I think, to be fair, the tribe’s share of revenue is restored – you know, obviously they can generate billions of dollars for the state of Florida – and our desire to do so was the initial first step. I think when COVID obviously shocked the world, and how many budget deficits may or may not happen, whether in the state of Florida or in so many states, and the unknown, as to what help would come from the federal government, I think this also contributed to what both sides are saying, let’s look at a situation where if the tribe reopens, obviously reverts to its previous activity levels, there may be a minimum solution (400 million dollars) or $ 500 million per year.
Q: Sports betting has been one of the most controversial provisions of the pact for some people and the most interesting features for others. Will the tribe’s plans for on-site sports betting include gyms similar to those offered at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City?
ALLEN: Yes. The reality is that if you go to Las Vegas and walk past the bookmaker the greatest percentage of the time the bookmaker is empty. This is not me saying it. I think any CEO of all the big game companies would say the same thing. So there isn’t a lot of business volume on a 24 hour basis. However, when you have events – like what’s going on right now, the NBA playoffs, football games, March Madness, a Kentucky Derby, or a big horse race, that type of event – those rooms are absolutely full. to crack. So I think offering the entertainment equipment is something we look forward to doing, but the concept of someone sitting in sports betting placing a bet that the Tampa Bay Rays will beat the Yankees today we don’t think it’s okay there is a lot of foot traffic there.
Q: Can you describe how online sports betting could shape the Florida gambling environment?
ALLEN: Well, obviously Florida is a very large state with a population that is expected to increase. So I think there is an advantage, if sports betting is considered legal across all the different challenges that may or may not arise, it is clearly a business that has a lot of potential and strengths. Our problem is, if you look at illegal sports betting on online gambling sites, there are already billions of dollars happening every year from the citizens of the state of Florida. So part of our message to state leaders was that it was happening anyway. It is not regulated. Very often these sites are just a magnet for offshore activities which may or may not include money laundering and many other illegal activities. So why not offer the product, because clearly the citizens have told us that they want it. Why not offer the product in a regulatory environment with integrity, then obviously the state can take advantage of the revenue share associated with that, and this is the catalyst for the tribe to restore its revenue share nine years earlier than the law. do not force it. do.
Q: What role does Hard Rock Digital play in the evolution of Seminoles’ gaming business, and what impact will the Florida Compact have on those efforts?
ALLEN: I think the answer to this question is very similar for most companies in the industry. If you look at studies, if you look at your children or grandchildren, most of them get by with a smartphone easier and faster than most people in their 40s, 50s and 60s and over. So it’s clear that the world is going digital, and we believe that as an industry – and not just Seminole Hard Rock – this is the direction the gaming industry will take in the next five to 10 years. So certainly Hard Rock Digital is the vehicle we’ll use to expand and meet the needs in this space, not just here in Florida, but we are already operating in New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa and other states. . We will continue to do so globally.
Q: What is your vision for Seminoles Casino operations in Florida over the next 30 years, the term of the contract?
ALLEN: I think this question has two different answers. One is obviously what happens during this legal process which will most likely begin within the next 60 days to six months. Based on this, it will lead to a decision on a strategy that will certainly affect the online sports betting market. And then obviously the expansion of earth activity, I think it’s a little premature to say when that can happen because basically we are still living in a COVID environment and basically there is still a lot of people who receive grants from the state or the federal government and many of them will expire at the end of the month and, at least for now, many more will expire in September. So I think there has to be a real leveling out of the impact of COVID. Obviously, inflation is a concern. Obviously, the changes in the tax structure, as to what it does to the markets that will affect the 401 (k) and individual net worth of people. This ripple effect must occur. What it does, then we have a business leveling, so I think we can have a smarter conversation about whether or not it makes sense to grow and spend an additional $ 1 billion or $ 2 billion on it. create another destination.