The House Regulatory Affairs Committee voted 12-6 on Tuesday, approving the 20-year gaming compact that see the state get a $3.1 billion revenue guarantee in a period of seven years. A mix of Democrats and Republicans voted on either side of the deal, which shows why compacts of such nature—pitting pari-mutuel casinos, horse and dog breeders, the Seminole tribe and anti-gambling groups against each other—has had a hard time in the Legislature.
Even Regulatory Affairs chairman Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, admitted it was a tough day for him and other lawmakers, telling the Sun-Sentinel: “If you were to tell me when I was running for office that I would be graced with the privilege of negotiating this compact, I probably would have run the other way.”
Still, it was a successful first step for the tribal gaming compact in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, not so much.
Also on Tuesday, Florida senators decided to hit pause and postpone the hearings related to the Seminole compact and other gambling bills for another week.
Sen. Rob Bradley, chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee, said they wanted to get it right, telling state reporters that “the decision had nothing to do with vote counts and everything to do with the fact that this is a complex issue.”
In a separate interview with FloridaPolitics.com, Bradley said his intention was “to give our committee members the opportunity to digest the various amendments being filed.”
The gaming compact will preserve the tribe’s right to offer blackjack and other house-banked card games at all seven of its casinos. In addition, the tribe’s casinos will also have the right to offer non-card table games like roulette and craps.
Bradley and Diaz told state reporters last week that having separate bill “will address pari-mutuel-industry issues that are permitted, but not specifically authorized” by the compact. The senators explained that “the measures would do away with dormant pari-mutuel permits and eliminate some active permits” to make them more pleasant to the gambling nonfans in the legislature.
The compact, in a bid to keep some of the other major stakeholders happy, is giving the state’s pari-mutuel betting operators in Broward and Miami-Dade counties the option of adding blackjack to their slots operations in the future. However, horse- and dog-track operators as well as jai-alai frontons outside the two counties will still be barred from adding slots to their racing operations.