Major Gambling Proposal Emerges In Florida Senate

January 13, 2017

A senator instrumental in the passage of the Legislature’s last major gambling bill released a massive proposal Thursday that would allow slot machines in eight counties where voters have approved them, let South Florida pari-mutuels run blackjack games, and give tracks permission to do away with greyhound racing while keeping lucrative cardrooms and slots.

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, called the bill (SB 8) a starting point as lawmakers gear up to deal with a potential gambling agreement being negotiated by the Seminole Tribe, Gov. Rick Scott’s staff and legislative leaders.

“To effectively address an issue like gaming that involves an almost century-old industry and a sovereign within our own borders, it has to be rolled out procedurally correct. The bill that has been filed is comprehensive on the industry side,” Galvano told The News Service of Florida. “It really includes most everything that has been discussed of late.”

Negotiations with the Seminoles are underway after a portion of a 20-year deal, called a compact, expired in 2015. That portion gave the tribe the exclusive rights to operate “banked” card games such as blackjack.

But a federal judge in November ruled that the Seminoles could continue to offer blackjack because the state had breached the agreement by permitting controversial “designated player” games at pari-mutuel cardrooms. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that the designated player games violate a state law prohibiting games in which players bet against the house.

Galvano’s soup-to-nuts proposal would make legal the designated player games.

His plan would also allow slots in eight counties where voters have approved them — a shift away from what lawmakers previously have been willing to authorize and something the Seminoles have opposed. The current compact, signed in 2010, gives the tribe “exclusive” rights to operate slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

The 2010 compact called for $1 billion in guaranteed payments to the state over five years, and the tribe has exceeded that amount. The money is a combination of revenues the Seminoles earn from slot machines and card games.

“They’ve been good partners with us, and the funds are substantial. But it’s hard to ignore voters in eight counties that are telling us that they not only want these games but they want the revenues and the economic development that come from them,” Galvano said. “So when you look at gaming comprehensively, you can’t ignore the economic development that comes on the private industry side and simply just look at revenue that comes on the compact side.”

Galvano’s bill also builds on a proposed agreement struck by Scott and the tribe in late 2015 in which the Seminoles agreed to pay the state $3 billion over seven years in exchange for craps and roulette.

The proposed agreement never went into effect because the Legislature failed to give it the requisite stamp of approval.

Galvano, who is slated to take over as Senate president in 2018, said lawmakers need to decide what kind of gambling policy they want the state to have before making decisions about the types of games the tribe should be allowed to conduct.

“I know that we have to create a new agreement with the tribe. But now we have a basis for them to know what’s coming and to negotiate on the components of something, as opposed to sending a compact to us only to have a death by a thousand amendments. That’s what I want to avoid,” said Galvano, who is reprising his 2010 role as one of the Legislature’s chief negotiators with the tribe.

Galvano’s 112-page proposal includes elements sought by the state’s influential pari-mutuel industry — such as “decoupling” of dog racing and most horse racing. If decoupling occurs, tracks would not be required to run live races while being able to offer other forms of gambling, such as cardrooms.

The measure also would set up a regulatory structure for “fantasy” sports in Florida, requiring operators to pay an initial $500,000 licensure fee and an annual $100,000 renewal fee.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Jose Felix Diaz, Galvano’s counterpart in the gambling negotiations, tweeted a response to the proposal Thursday evening.

“@FLSenate look forward to reviewing this bill and working with @BillGalvano @FLGovScott the FL House and the Tribe on this imprtnt project,” Diaz, R-Miami, wrote.

Galvano released his proposal hours after the House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee learned about issues surrounding the compact from a state economist and gambling regulators.

Galvano said he expects the Senate Regulated Industries Committee to take up the measure at its next meeting Jan. 25, as lawmakers prepare for the March 7 start of the annual session. As in previous years, passage of any gambling proposal remains “a heavy lift,” Galvano said.

“But here it is, second committee week. We’ve got a bill out. I’m going to make an effort to see if we can get there,” he said.

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida


7 Responses to “Major Gambling Proposal Emerges In Florida Senate”

  1. Redman on January 18th, 2017 7:58 pm

    Let porch creek build a wind creek type casino in Greta.

  2. terry yaple on January 17th, 2017 11:21 am

    When the Seminoles first opened,they had 6 deck blackjack &95% payout on their slots -now they’re turning to fake blacjack & WHO KNOWS WHAT! the slot payout is now. They don’t have to answer to anybody but themselves, so as a result , the florida residents & tourists are being being ripped off.

  3. Samantha on January 14th, 2017 7:44 pm

    It is time for the state to negotiate a compact with the porch Creek’s. This is ridiculous. They are leaving a lot of revenue on the table by not doing this. I hear that they are trying, but that is not enough. There are too many people around here who need the jobs.

  4. Frank Williams on January 14th, 2017 9:14 am

    The state of Florida needs to wake up and understand that money is flowing like a river out of the state as people will find a place to gamble regardless (that includes Tribal casinos in the state as they are controlled by Federal Laws and not state. I grew up in Pensacola and watched as there was no lottery in the state so we made trips across state lines to buy tickets and then Florida got its own lottery and I saw other states flowing in with their money to buy Florida Lottery tickets. People act as if the casino has to be placed in the middle of the city, look around, most of the places are far removed from the heart of downtown and it is guaranteed that where ever they are built will grow a town, housing, jobs, a bigger tax base and less dependency we have on a foreign “Sovereign Government” that lives within the state. I have 23 years worth of experience on both sides of that and YOU, non-tribal, citizens are at a tremendous business disadvantage.

    How much are the Seminole’s making vs what they are giving to you? (compact fee)
    What would a competitive non-tribal casino pay in taxes to the state? vs a heavily discounted fee that is renegotiated every few years?
    With all the money the tribe is making how many federal grants are they still getting to supplement them?

    Please wake up, this is a win/win to allow gaming in counties that want it vs. an exclusive deal to 1 tribe in the ENTIRE state of Florida that you have to negotiate with and them to agree how much they want to give you.

    Go Aggies!

  5. Bill Barry on January 13th, 2017 5:06 pm

    I have worked in the Casino Industry for over 35 years, in Atlantic City and Las Vegas and Fair isn’t what it used to be!
    I have watched the Gaming Industry try and compete, in a lot of cases against themselves by expanding into other counties and states and it’s time to put a stop to this nonsense! Gaming should be allowed in the areas it is in Only! When gaming was in Las Vegas and Atlantic City it was a Destination Industry and a Proud one! Some things had to, and should have been tweaked but be that as it may if you allow this to happen in Florida the wheels will start coming off and Florida and it’s residents and business partners will suffer and be left holding the “proverbial bag”!
    The Seminole’s have been guided in the right direction and the Great State of Florida has Benefited Immensely.
    If It Ain’t Broke …….Don’t Try and Fix It!

  6. Steven Norton on January 13th, 2017 4:25 pm

    Once dog and horse tracks are no longer required to have live racing, it would seem the State could bring the slot tax rate back to the 50% level; that was only reduced to underwrite live racing. Whether tracks can keep their Black Jack, should be dealt with in the Seminole Compact negotiations. The good news for Florida tourism is the probable inclusion of the game of Craps and Roulette in the Seminole negotiations; which would put the Tribal casinos on equal footing with other resort destinations; the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Biloxi and many other Island and Central American casinos.
    I still believe it would be wrong to allow the horse tracks to stop racing, as they are part of the Florida tourism package, but they would need a lower tax than free standing slot casinos; and of course Tampa Bay Downs, needs a subsidy, absent other forms of gaming.
    It might also be wise to consider moving some the dog track casino licenses to more suitable locations; more convenient to the visitor population.

  7. Make Florida Fair Again on January 13th, 2017 10:55 am

    Finally a voice of reason that sees the value of expanding gaming on a level and fair playing field that will benefit many more people than what has occurred with the Seminole’s monopoly. Jobs, development and more tax revenue have all been held hostage by the unfair treatment of the Seminole Tribe’s compact that only yielded the state a measly 8% effective tax rate while the Tribe enjoyed over $2 BILLION in gaming revenue per year? It’s time to make Florida Fair Again!!

Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.