Florida Senate signs off on gambling dealby Dara Kam | April 15th, 2010
The Florida Senate approved a $1 billion gambling deal that could transform the state into the Las Vegas of the Southeast, leaving just one more step until the state’s compact with the Seminole tribe is finalized.
The Senate debated briefly before a 29-9 vote on a compact that the tribe has sought for more than two decades and which lawmakers twice rejected in the past two years.
The agreement struck by GOP lawmakers, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminoles would allow the tribe to have Las Vegas-style slot machines at each of its seven locations and run blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer at five of their operations.
The lynchpin of the deal is the five-year agreement with the Seminoles giving them the exclusive rights to run banked card games, including blackjack, at five of their seven facilities, including their lucrative Tampa Hard Rock casino that brings in at least half of all the tribe’s Florida gambling revenue, according to Galvano.
Most important for the tribe is the prohibition against any of the state’s pari-mutuels outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties to run the card games.
Sen. Ronda Storms spoke passionately against the measure and criticized the lack of money going to gambling addiction programs.
“This is a sad day in the state of Florida where we…won’t even fund treatment. You can call the hotline and they’ll say, ‘Well, we’re sorry about that. Bummer for you,’” Storms, R-Valrico, said. “I say the Florida Legislature is making a mistake and the governor of the state of Florida is making a mistake by going down this road and expanding gambling.”
The bill’s sponsor Dennis Jones defended the measure (SB 622), saying it “doesn’t even expand gaming” because the Seminoles are already running the banked card games at their Tampa and Hollywood Hard Rock casinos.
“What this does..it stops an illegal activity that’s already taking place,” said Jones, R-Seminole. “Let us basically put this issue to rest and move forward.”