Florida House Passes Gambling Bill but Gov Scott Asks the Senate to Hold Off while he negotiates with the Seminole Tribe

Casino Watch Focus reported on the two bills the Florida House and Senate were debating.  The Florida House committee has now voted to create a new state gambling agency to act as a gambling commission.  The Miami Herald explains that Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Senate to hold off moving forward until after he has negotiated with the Seminole Tribe:

“The governor’s office called me and asked if we would slow down the process until we know what the terms of a potential deal with the tribe is,’’ Richter told the Herald/Times late Wednesday. He said he expects the vote to be delayed for at least another week and he is optimistic the governor will resolve the gaming compact before session ends in May.

The compact, a legal agreement between the state and the tribe, guarantees that the tribe give the state about $234 million a year in revenue in exchange for the exclusive right to operate slot machines at four casinos outside of Miami-Dade and Broward. It also allows the tribe to operate banked card games — blackjack, chemin de fer and baccarat — at the Hard Rock casinos in Tampa and near Hollywood, plus three other casinos.

The portion of the agreement that relates to table games expires Aug. 1, 2015, and Scott has decided to start negotiating terms of the deal now. If he resolves the agreement, legislators must ratify it and it is uncertain whether that could be completed before session is scheduled to adjourn May 2.

These negotiations will have a big impact on what the legislature can do with gambling expansion.  The Daily Business Review breaks down the relationship the Seminole Tribe’s compact has on the states plans to expand:

House and Senate leaders are waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to seal a deal with the Seminole Tribe before they finalize decisions about the future of gambling in Florida.  The governor is playing his cards close to his vest, and it’s unclear whether he’ll wrap up negotiations in time for the Legislature to ratify a new compact with the tribe before the legislative session ends May 2.

But the elements of any new deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida would center on three items—the tribe’s revenue to the state, the types of games the tribe is allowed to have and the tribe’s rights to be the only gambling operators in the state to offer certain games, known as “exclusivity.”

“If nothing’s done, the tribe is going to lose their ability to operate the banked card games. That’s a real issue for them and it certainly is leverage for the state of Florida,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, one of the chief architects of the current, $1 billion, five-year deal with the Seminoles that sunsets on Aug. 1, 2015. “So the heart of the negotiations have to be the continuation of the card authorization, most likely an effort to have additional games at their facilities, and (the Seminoles) would have to couple that with a new, greater offer of dollars.

Ultimately the decision of the Senate to move forward is their own to make and if the Gov doesn’t resolve the issues quickly, they may very well act.  The Daily Business Review goes on to explain that even if the Senate does pass gambling legislation, the House Speaker Will Weathorford, is insisting that they wont pass any major gambling bills until the negotiations have concluded.


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