Florida Greenlights the Use of Gambling Compact Money for Environmental Projects

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has greenlit the use of gambling money for environmental projects. By signing SB 1638 into law, DeSantis ensured millions of dollars for a wide range of programs, including the removal of invasive species and the creation and maintenance of a state wildlife corridor.

Under SB 1638, the state will provide annual funding for key environmental initiatives. The bill envisions providing $536 million for the next fiscal year and conserving the state’s environment. In addition to protecting the local wildlife, some of the efforts will see Florida replace more septic tanks with functional sewarage.

As mentioned, the bill would allow the state to fund such projects with money procured through a previous gambling deal. The gambling compact was signed by Florida and the Seminole Tribe in 2021 and allowed the tribal organization to offer additional games at its casinos, as well as online sports betting in the state.

In total, the Seminole Tribe agreed to pay $2.5 billion in installments over the first five years of operating betting. The tribe is set to provide additional money to the state through its 30-year agreement with the government.

Florida Seeks to Protect Its Great Treasures

DeSantis described the signing of the bill as β€œone in a series of landmark efforts” to conserve the state’s natural resources and restore some of its great treasures, including the Everglades. The bill complements an earlier constitutional amendment under which a portion of real-estate transaction taxes would go toward conservation initiatives.

Approved by voters in 2014, the original amendment will bolster environmental programs for two decades.

The plan for the next fiscal year is to provide $100 million for land acquisition that will reinforce conservation efforts. An additional $150 million will be set aside for flood control. Another $96 million will be provided for land management.

Recipients of funding include the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The signing of SB 1638 comes just as DeSantis also enacted HB 5203, a bill addressing the management of assets seized by the Florida Gaming Control Commission. Under that bill, seized assets can be resold to benefit a variety of state and country programs. The money procured from such sales would go to the Pari-Mutuel Wagering Trust Fund, which is the primary fund for the FGCC.