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Rep. Bill Galvano and Sen. JD Alexander Resolve Differences on Seminole Gaming Compact

On May 6th, 2009, legislative negotiators agreed on what Governor Charlie Crist called a good agreement to expand gaming at Seminole Indian casinos, some 6 hours after the talks between both chambers were on the verge of collapse. Both parties made some concessions. The House accepted a broader gambling expansion that majority of its members wanted. The Senate agreed to less than it had been originally pushing for.

The gaming agreement has the opportunity to produce millions of dollars for the state treasury that have been severely affected by the financial crisis. The next questions are whether both the House and Senate will pass a compromise when it comes to a vote on Friday and if the Seminoles will accept it. A spokesman for the tribe said that the agreement was currently under review. One issue quickly resolved was what to do with a minimum of $150 million yearly Florida expects to receive from the agreement.

It would go directly to the state's Education Enhancement Trust Fund that pays for college scholarships, school buildings and other education needs. Representative Bill Galvano, the House's main gambling negotiator said that the tribe will be hard pressed to pass up the agreement.

Governor Crist has been a frequent observer to the negotiations and was present as Galvano and Senate Ways and Means Head JD Alexander settled their differences. Governor Crist previously negotiated a gaming compact with the Seminoles but the Florida state Supreme Court cancelled it, stating that the legislator must approve any gaming agreement with the tribe.

It would allow banked card games like blackjack and baccarat at the Seminole tribe's 3 Broward County casinos and one in Tampa, Florida. Banked card games would not be permitted at other casino facilities in Coconut Creek, Brighton and Immokalee.

Class III slot machines and no-limit poker would be allowed at all seven casino facilities. To help pari-mutuel facilities compete effective with the tribal casinos, the gaming agreement also includes slashing the current tax rate of 50% to 35% on slot machines at horse and dog racing tracks and jai alai frontons located in Broward and Miami Dade Counties, the only places where they are allowed. Pari-mutuels would also receive bigger poker wagering limits and be able to conduct thoroughbred horse races at night. The South Florida horse racing track, though, could only offer blackjack through voter approval.


05/17/2009 20:30 PM


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