After two days of heated negotiations, Florida legislators have agreed to expand gambling in the state of Florida. But there are still some major hurdles.
The House and Senate came eyeball to eyeball. And, many insiders argue, the House blinked.
It had been opposed to allowing blackjack anywhere in Florida. But now, negotiators have agreed to allow blackjack, not to mention no-limit poker and baccarat, at four of the Seminole tribe's casinos in Tampa and Broward County. Three minor casinos in southwest Florida would get only slots.
"There was some compromise along the way, but it's balanced, reasonable, and will accomplish what we were asked to accomplish by federal law, covered which is negotiate with the Seminole tribe to reach a revenue share agreement," says Rep. Bill Galvano of Bradenton.
Now, there had been a lot of talk about bringing the games to horse and dog tracks, too. Under the deal, that wouldn't happen, but the tracks would pay less in taxes, and they'd have higher betting limits to help them compete with the tribe. In all, revenue sharing on the games would add up to at least a hundred fifty million dollars a year, paid directly to the state to help fund education.
"Anyway we can generate revenue to directly impact money going into education, I'm definitely gonna be an advocate of looking at covered it and seeing how we can definitely generate those dollars for our children," says Sen. Alan Williams.
But right now, it's anyone's guess if the tribe will sign off. And, the full house has to vote on it, if not tomorrow, then Friday.
High-level sources tell me, a fair number of anti-blackjack Republicans are on the fence.
If the deal passes, it would be a victory for Governor Charlie Crist. He signed an expanded gambling compact with the Seminole tribe a year and a half ago, only to see it invalidated by the State Supreme Court.
The justices ruled the compact couldn't become official unless the legislature signed off.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Legislative negotiators have agreed on a plan to expand gambling at Seminole Indian casinos.
Gov. Charlie Crist called it a "great'' deal for the state. Crist was on hand Wednesday as Senate Ways and Means Chairman J.D. Alexander and Rep. Bill Galvano, the House's chief gaming negotiator, settled their differences.
The deal would permit banked card games such as black jack and baccarat at the tribe's three Broward County casinos and one in Tampa. Banked card games would not be allowed at the other three facilities in Immokalee, Brighton and Coconut Creek.
Las Vegas style slot machines would be allowed at all seven casinos.
A Seminole spokesman said the proposal was under review.