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Florida House passes Indian gambling proposal

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April 22, 2009

TALLAHASSEE - The House voted 84-27 to pass a revised version of Senate bill SB 788 which seeks a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe, but guts the Senate's key provision of granting the tribe full-blown casinos

The bill (SB 788) strips the Seminoles blackjack games, which it installed after signing a deal with Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007, and allows only the Las Vegas-style slot machines already installed at South Florida pari-mutuels. When the Senate passed the bill last week, it gave the tribe full-blown casinos, including craps and roulette.

"This is a very reasonable, conservative approach," said Rep. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who chairs the committee that reviewed the compact issue.

However, Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, was pessimistic that both chambers could compromise on the gambling issue. He said "There's a possibility there will be no compact at all this session. I can't imagine the Seminoles being interested in the stripped down version that the House is giving. Why would they?"

The House also passed a bill aimed at helping horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons. That bill (HB 7145) would expand hours and allow for bigger raises and jackpots at pari-mutuel poker rooms. The bill passed on a 83-33 vote.

The House and Senate are both counting on revenue from Seminole casinos as part of their budget proposals. The Senate budget includes $400 million in new gambling money compared to only $100 million in the House plan. That doesn't include money the tribe has already paid to the state under the deal with Crist, which isn't being spent until the compact issue is resolved.

All sides hope to work out a budget agreement before the 60-day legislative session ends May 1st.

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