House Passes Gambling Agreement With Seminoles
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The House passed a bill Thursday
seeking a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe, but the issue
is far from over.
The bill (SB 788) likely isn't likely to make the Senate or the
tribe happy. It basically strips the tribe of the blackjack games
it's now offering under a deal Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminoles
signed in 2007. The House would allow only the Las Vegas-style slot
machines that are already installed at South Florida pari-mutuels.
When the Senate passed the bill last week, it gave the tribe
full-blown casinos, including craps and roulette. The House gutted
the measure before sending it back to the Senate on a 84-27 vote.
"This is a very reasonable, conservative approach," said Rep.
Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who chairs the committee
that reviewed the compact issue.
But Sen. Jim King expressed pessimism that the two chambers
could agree on the gambling issue.
"There's a possibility there will be no compact at all this
session, said King, R-Jacksonville. "I can't imagine the Seminoles
being interested in the stripped down version that the House is
giving. Why would they?"
The Seminoles have argued that because slot machines are allowed
at Broward and Miami-Dade County pari-mutuels, the tribe should at
least be allowed to have them at its seven casinos around the
The Seminole Tribe would have to agree to any compact and the
federal government would to approve any deal between the tribe and
state. To get money from the tribe, the state has to offer
something that benefits the Seminoles, such as exclusive right to
games not allowed in Florida, or to guarantee competition won't be
allowed in a certain geographic areas.
The House would guarantee slots wouldn't be allowed outside
Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where tracks and frontons can now
install them. The Senate would give exclusive rights to full blown
The House also passed a bill aimed at helping horse and dog
tracks and jai-alai frontons, which say they've been hurt by
competition with the Seminole casinos. The bill (HB 7145) would
expand hours and allow for bigger raises and jackpots at
pari-mutuel poker rooms. It also creates a new formula for taxing
slot machines at South Florida pari-mutuels that could make them
more profitable for the tracks. It passed on an 83-33 vote.
The House and Senate are both counting on revenue from Seminole
casinos as part of their budget proposals. The Senate budget
includes $400 million in new gambling money compared to only $100
million in the House plan. That doesn't include money the tribe has
already paid to the state under the deal with Crist, which isn't
being spent until the compact issue is resolved.
The two sides hope to work out a budget agreement by next week.
The 60-day legislative session is scheduled to end May 1. Galvano
said they can get a budget deal with no agreement on a compact by
just stripping the money out of the proposals.
He said both chambers should "really think hard before basing a
budget on those dollars."
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