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Florida Will Devote Gaming Revenue to Water Quality

The state’s gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is expected to bring in $750 million annually, totaling $6 billion through 2030. Currently, 96 percent of the funds are committed to water-quality projects.

Almost the entire gusher of cash pouring into the government from Florida’s share of profits from expanded gambling offerings by the Seminole Tribe of Florida is now legally earmarked for improving the state’s water quality.

The gambling deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe involves a lot of money — an estimated $750 million a year, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday, April 4.

Through 2030, the total could hit $6 billion, his office said.

Fully 96 percent of that is now committed to water-quality projects under legislation he signed into law at an event in Davie.

Water Management

The measure provides $150 million for repairs and upgrades to the Central and South Florida Water Management System, where “most of the infrastructure was built in the middle of the last century,” DeSantis said.

The system provides water for more than 9 million people in the state from Orlando to the Florida Keys, and attempts to protect the regions from flooding.

Also approved: a Florida Gulf Coast University study of Lake Okeechobee that will examine ways to control invasive plants, replant native vegetation, and manage fish and game.


The new law spells out several recurring uses for cash the state gets from the Tribe.

DeSantis said one $100 million pot of money would go toward resilience projects that would help minimize the impacts of hurricanes. It aims to, the governor’s office said, “guard inland and coastal communities against the impacts of storm damage, surges, hurricanes and flooding.”

The governor pointed to multiple areas hit by hurricanes, where newer construction fared far better than older buildings.

He said communities would be able to apply to get matching grants from that pool of money to help fortify themselves.

The MIT Technology Review, the National Geographic, Yale Climate Connections and government agencies have reported increased evidence of a connection between climate change and worsening hurricanes.

Storms are intensifying more quickly than they once did.

And ocean temperatures have increased, meaning they contain additional energy that can be harvested by a storm.

The governor declined, during a subsequent news conference, to attribute any of the need for such fortifications to the impacts of climate change.

“I think we’ve always, I think if you go back — and I’ve become kind of an expert on the history of hurricanes in Florida because I’ve studied this now — if you go back and look at Hurricane Andrew that hit South Florida in ‘92 and, and you look at what was done since then — and I saw it in Hurricane Ian — the newer construction can withstand strong hurricanes. And we had strong hurricanes, 100 years from now, we’re going to continue to have them. Whether they’re worse or not, I don’t know if there’s data for that, but I think some people assert that. But either way, we’re in a situation where you know, this stuff has worked,” he said.

Other Spending

The legislation also spells out $100 million for land acquisition within the Florida Wildlife Corridor to help protect wildlife and improve recreation and allocates $100 million for the management of uplands and the removal of invasive species. DeSantis cited as an example the efforts to combat non-native pythons in the Everglades.

The law establishes a similar breakdown, including money for the resiliency program, in future years.

After those allocations, the rest of the money would go to the Water Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund, which DeSantis said could eventually get $450 million a year. That money would be aimed at reducing harmful nutrients in Florida’s waterways. Fertilizer and septic runoff are causes of nutrient pollution in Florida’s springs and other waterways.


The new law was a bipartisan measure, with unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. It was praised at the event on Thursday.

Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. said the money from the compact would help with the overarching goal of restoring the Everglades, which has been significantly degraded since the time his grandfather would leave home, hunt and return up to a month later with food for his family.

“Back in those days, they used to go drink from those streams. Today you wouldn’t even think about drinking from those streams. You wouldn’t think about swimming in those streams because you couldn’t see the bottom as you could back then,” Osceola said.

Scott Martin, of Clewiston, an angler who specializes in bass fishing on Lake Okeechobee, said the lake is “the headquarters of the Everglades. You go out there on that lake and see that grass, and the birds, and the manatees, and the alligators, and the bucks, and the fish, and the fishermen enjoying that beautiful resource.” Martin is the son of Roland Martin, the longtime host of TV fishing shows.

Several dozen people — environmental advocates, employees of DeSantis run state agencies, representatives of conservative organizations, and Republican state legislators from South Florida — were on hand for the bill signing.

Gambling Deal

The money comes from the 2021 “gaming compact” that gave the Tribe a monopoly on sports betting, craps and roulette — games that weren’t authorized previously. It was approved by the Legislature but the deal required federal approval and was delayed by court challenges.

The Seminole Tribe began offering sports betting late last year.

DeSantis hailed the agreement, which his office said could add $6 billion to state coffers through 2030, as a “very good deal.”

©2024 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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