Connect with us

Published

on


Before the courtroom drama even starts, however, the governor and top Republicans this week must withstand a flurry of behind-the-scenes lobbying, including an effort by a major fantasy sports company, DraftKings, to kill the deal outright. State legislators are also worried that they could open the door to future casinos, including one at former President Donald Trump’s resort near Miami.

“You cannot put that much money on the table and not have a feeding frenzy,” said state Rep. Evan Jenne, one of the leaders of the House Democrats.

DeSantis scored several high profile wins during the last legislative session that he can use to highlight his conservative credentials, including an anti-riot bill as well as laws cracking down on Big Tech and banning vaccine passports. The gambling package would give him a multi-billion dollar economic victory, but would be a high-profile loss that his opponents would be sure to use against him if state legislators reject it.

Gambling is technically illegal in Florida. But it’s been accompanied by a wink-wink acceptance over the years that has led to an array of arcane laws, loopholes and carve-outs. Dog tracks and horse tracks stretch back decades. The state added its own lottery in the ‘80s, and nearly 20 years ago gambling interests were able to add slot machines to existing tracks and gambling operations in two South Florida counties.

The latest deal — which would last 30 years — would mark a significant win for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which operates and owns multiple casinos in the state, including a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The tribe would be put in control of sports betting, which would be allowed at both tribal casinos as well as through a mobile phone app. Under the deal, the Seminoles would build three new casinos in Hollywood, Fla. — the site of a Hard Rock Casino now — and add Las Vegas-style table games like craps and roulette. The Tribe would also control sports betting at existing horse tracks and former dog racing facilities.

It’s because of all these added benefits that the Seminoles have agreed to pay the state at least $500 a million a year to start.

Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming, called the new agreement a “historic” deal between two “powerhouses” when discussing it during an online session with legislators last week. Allen, in an effort to swat criticism that has been bubbling up recently, also said the Tribe was guaranteeing more gambling money than was currently going to Nevada.

“Voting no for this potential compact is voting against a $6 billion payment to the state of Florida that it wouldn’t have received,” Allen said.

The sweep of the deal, however has its detractors who worry about locking in such a major agreement for 30 years.

“I think this is a sweetheart deal for the Tribe to get a 30-year monopoly in the state of Florida,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican.

Behind the scenes, DraftKings, which offers sports betting as well as daily fantasy contests, has hired 11 lobbyists in the last few weeks as part a last-minute effort to either alter the compact or scuttle the deal. DraftKings declined to comment about its efforts. The company, which is publicly traded, is highly popular and had agreements with sports organizations in the U.S., including Major League Baseball.

Most lawmakers and lobbyists privately concede that the agreement with the Tribe is likely to pass. But some of the accompanying bills — including ones to allow bingo at gambling centers not run by the Tribe or the regulation of fantasy sports — are not assured of passing. Some of the measures, since they would create new taxes or fees, require a two-thirds approval of the Florida House or Senate.

Rep. Randy Fine, a Brevard County Republican and chair of the Florida House Select Committee, said the length of the deal with the tribe makes it “the most consequential vote that any legislator will make in Tallahassee.”

“We’re sort of 0-1 with compacts,” Fine said. “There’s no glitch bill, or oops bill. We got to make sure we get it right.”

SELLING THE DEAL

If the deal somehow falls apart it will likely be in the Florida House, where gambling bills over the years have met their doom. Senate President Wilton Simpson, who calls the agreement a “major win,” was involved in the initial talks with the Tribe and has lined up support in his chamber.

Simpson and Senate Republicans, however, had to throw in their own concessions. The compact with the Tribe opens the door to for existing gambling centers to relocate as long as it isn’t too close to a casino run by the Seminoles. For example, the language says no new casino can be set up 15 miles in a direct line from the Tribe’s existing Hollywood, Fla., casino. Trump’s Doral resort is located 15.2 miles away.

The Miami Herald this year also previously detailed how Jeffrey Soffer, a billionaire real estate developer, held fundraisers and parties on his superyacht where he asked legislators to let him take an existing permit and move it to the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. That’s also more than 15 miles away from the Tribal casino.

Simpson acknowledged in an interview that, “in reality, there were too many moving parts,” including opposition from the city of Miami Beach to change state law to allow the relocation of existing gambling permits.

Sen. Travis Hutson, the Palm Coast Republican who is sponsoring the gambling bills, echoed that and called the legislation “a heavy lift.” Hutson, however, maintained that no one has talked to him or Simpson about trying to do anything to assist Trump. Trump this past week made a surprise endorsement of Simpson for the state’s agriculture commissioner even though Simpson has not yet publicly declared he is running for the post.

Meanwhile, several sources have said that House Speaker Chris Sprowls — who was not directly involved in negotiations — has told legislators he supports the compact with the Seminoles. But Sprowls isn’t calling up lawmakers and asking that they vote for any of the gambling bills. His biggest priority is the creation of a new statewide commission that would regulate the gambling industry with the help of state Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Instead, it has fallen to DeSantis and his staff to help push through the gambling legislation — and several gambling lobbyists and legislators said the administration finally got into gear this past week. DeSantis already signed the gaming deal with the Seminoles in April after months of negotiations, and is now waiting for the Legislature’s approval.

James Uthmeier, DeSantis’ general counsel, this past week publicly conceded that the deal was not perfect. But he contended it “was in the best interest of the state.” Both he and Allen tried to sell lawmakers on the idea that the deal would halt efforts to allow full-blown gambling throughout the state — and would place a curb on illegal gambling that is already rampant.

“I guess if there’s one loser in this compact it would be someone that really wants Florida to turn into Las Vegas,” Uthmeier said.

Despite the ongoing intrigue, Simpson remains confident the deal with the Seminoles will wind up passing, noting that past deals over the last decade that eventually failed never got this far.

“It has taken a tremendous amount of work to bring this into position,” Simpson said.

READY FOR COURT

While the passage of a comprehensive gambling deal will be a legislative victory for Simpson and DeSantis, it is unlikely to be the end of the drama. It will likely be merely another marker in the state’s fractious debate.

The anti-gambling organization No Casinos has publicly disagreed with the legal interpretation offered by the DeSantis administration and the tribe that the sports betting arrangement passes constitutional muster. No Casinos previously backed a 2018 amendment on casino gambling that mandated voters would have a say over future casinos. The group has called it laughable to suggest that because sports betting ultimately winds up on a computer server on tribal lands, it meets the wording of the citizen initiative.

“This compact doesn’t really close doors, it opens them up all over the place,” said John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, who calls the pending legislation the biggest expansion of gambling in state history.

Simpson said he is prepared for the looming court battle, which brought its own retort from Sowinski.

“Taxpayer money will be spent defending a law that violates something voters wanted,” he said.

Uthmeier contends that there is previous legal precedent for the concept that a bet “is made for where it is received.”

“The governor would have not signed this deal if we did not believe there were strong arguments defending the constitutionality of the compact and the sports betting component,” he said.

Comments

Politics

Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

Published

on

By



“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

Continue Reading

Politics

Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

Published

on

By



In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Continue Reading

Politics

Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

Published

on

By



“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2021 Right Wing Uncut by TSD