Gov. Rick Scott’s $3.1 billion gaming compact with the Seminole tribe is finally moving ahead in the Florida Senate—albeit in a different form—which could throw a wrench in the lawmakers’ ability to pass a gambling bill this session.
Senate President-designate Joe Negron, R-Stuart, believes “a pure gaming compact won’t pass,” which was why he submitted an amended proposal that will not only see six counties get slot machines, but will also allow race tracks with slots and card rooms as replacement for live racing.
The Senate Committee on Regulated Industries voted 8-4 in favor of Negron’s version.
In his speech before the Senate committee, Negron said the compact needs the vote of the lawmakers—divided between those who refuse a gambling expansion of any kind and those who represent constituents who want slot machines in their counties—to get further ahead in the Legislature.
The 20-year gaming compact between the Seminoles and the state will allow two new slots licenses: one at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, while the other would be reserved for a potential new venue in Miami-Dade. Each of the new facilities would be allowed a maximum of 750 slots and 750 ‘instant racing’ machines, while the tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties will have the option of adding blackjack to their gaming mix down the road “with some limitations.”
The package, however, was met with bitter opposition from the horse and dog racing industry, which fears the impact it would have on the racing sector if the bills were made to law. The gambling compact has a “decoupling” provision that would allow pari-mutel facilities to stop running live races in exchange for offering other gambling, such as slots and card rooms.
Negron said requiring live racing is “arbitrary and outdated,” noting that he doesn’t see any “public policy rationale to tell a business to engage in an activity,” according to FloridaPolitics.com.
Negron’s approved version brought serious changes to the Seminole deal, which was poised to give the state an estimated $9 billion in a period of 20 years, thanks to the revenue-sharing agreements. But that hinged on the probability that there won’t be any other casinos opening in the state.
Sen. Rob. Bradley, R-Fleming, was quoted by the Sun-Sentinel saying, “There was a thought that we would never get [the Seminole deal] done. That got done. Then came the idea there’s no way this thing could get out of a committee in the Florida Senate. It got out of a committee today. That does not mean it’s a sure thing to get done. As a matter of fact, challenges still remain. But we are where I think we need to be.”
Another measure that cleared the Senate on Wednesday would allow lottery tickets to be sold at gas pumps, according to FloridaPolitics.com.
The bills are now headed to the table of Senate President Andy Gardiner, who will call for another committee to review them. Once approved, the tribe promised to invest $1.8 billion improving its marque properties in Hollywood and Tampa, which will include a 36-floor hotel shaped like a guitar to complement a new Hard Rock Café at its Hollywood complex.