The future of casino and gambling regulation in Florida took an unexpected turn last week after Republican leaders in the Florida House Of Representatives proposed new legislation that is at direct odds with a measure put forward by Florida State Senator Bill Galvano in January.
Known as PCB TGC 17-01, the latest suggested legislation is essentially a status-quo proposal designed to replace the 20-year gaming compact signed with the Seminole Tribe Of Florida in 2010 and it would ban parimutuel operations in Lee County, Brevard County, Gadsden County, Duval County, Hamilton County, Palm Beach County, St Lucie County and Washington County from offering slots, which is something that Galvano’s Senate Bill 8 would allow after these games were earlier approved by local voters.
“This is the stand-off at the OK Corral,” Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist that represents dog tracks in Brevard County and Duval County, told The News Service Of Florida.
Also in conflict with the Florida State Senate legislation, which received unanimous support at its first vetting late last month and faces one more committee stop on Thursday before heading to the full chamber for a vote, PCB TGC 17-01 would prohibit Florida parimutuel operations from offering “banked” card games such as blackjack with the Seminole Tribe Of Florida again granted the exclusive right to offer these games in exchange for $3 billion in payments over seven years.
The Florida House Of Representatives proposal would additionally ban parimutuel card rooms in the state from running “player-banked” games such as poker, which is something permitted under Senate Bill 8 while steering a portion of the revenues to be earned from the Seminole Tribe Of Florida towards higher education programs.
Despite the disparities in the two pieces of legislation, Galvano told The News Service Of Florida that he remains confident lawmakers can reach a deal once the next legislative session kicks off in Tallahassee from March 7.
“It’s positive to see two bills, one in each chamber, moving this early in the process; in other words, before session has even begun,” Galvano told The News Service Of Florida. “So with these two bills out there, we all know what the playing field looks like and there’s time [to] negotiate further with [the Seminole Tribe Of Florida] and [between] the chambers.”
Although, as written, PCB TGC 17-01 would moreover preclude the Seminole Tribe Of Florida from operating craps and roulette, some industry representatives are far from downhearted and echoed Galvano’s optimism in explaining that at least the proposed measure gives stakeholders a point at which to start negotiations.
“I’m optimistic something can get done but it’s the hardest subject matter in all of Florida politics,” lobbyist Brian Ballard, whose clients include the Palm Beach Kennel Club in Palm Beach County, told The News Service Of Florida. “It’s the first time in years you have both the [Florida House Of Representatives] and the [Florida State Senate] with a vehicle that at least we can sit down and try to resolve this stuff that needs to be resolved.”