If you’re into Americana, then you already know all about car Stonehenge in Texas, Graceland in Tennessee, and Route 66. But when you’re getting from place to place, America also offers some interesting rest stops — from one in Nevada where you can buy and shoot off fireworks outside a cafe to the Mars Cheese Castle in Minnesota to “Truckers’ Disneyland” in Iowa.
Florida will add one more to that list this fall when the Miccosukee Tribe unveils its renovated Alligator Alley rest stop, which will include 150 slot machines along with a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Glades Cafe. The Dunkin’ Donuts is already open.
The rest stop is the only one on the 80-mile stretch of Interstate 75 that connects Naples to Miami. And it runs right through a section of the Miccosukee reservation, the “other” tribe in Florida.
Unlike their better-known Seminole counterparts, who negotiated a blockbuster compact with the state of Florida in 2020 for statewide mobile sports betting and an expansion of gambling that has landed in federal court, the Miccosukees have only one casino and haven’t been part of the sports betting discussion.
The tribe has no compact with the state for Class III gaming, which means it doesn’t pay taxes or revenue share with Florida. It also means that the tribe can only offer Class II gaming, which includes bingo, non-banked card games, and slots.
Because the tribe doesn’t have a compact with the state, it has stayed somewhat under the radar in terms of politics, but according to a 2016 story in Indianz, there had been estimates of the tribe making at least $72 million annually from gaming and providing tribal members with $100,000 per year from it.
The tribe also has a luxury casino resort in Miami that includes bingo, slots, and poker.
Tribe wants ‘room to grow’
An article in the Miami Herald reported the rest stop is on the Miccosukee’s original tribal land, and tribal leaders are trying to make the area more attractive to members.
“It’s important because we need room to grow,” tribal Secretary of the Business Council William Osceola told the Herald. “We have community members living here, but if we can show that this facility is working, then more people may come here. We don’t have a lot of room where we’re at and we’d like to grow. A tree doesn’t get bigger if you contain its roots.”
The Miccosukees were originally part of the Creek Nation, which migrated to Florida before the United States was formed. During the Seminole Wars (1817-58), most of the Miccosukees were relocated west, but a small group hid in the Everglades, and the tribe now numbers around 600. For a period of time, the Miccosukees were part of the Seminole Tribe, but they broke off and gained federal recognition in 1962.
The tribe’s reservation is broken into three sections, the smallest of which is in suburban Miami, where the tribe’s casino is located. The biggest is the Alligator Alley Reservation, home to the rest stop. The final piece is the Tamiami Trail reservation, located in far western Miami-Dade county.
Tribal leaders say they hope to open the new rest stop facilities in November.