A week after the Florida State Senate passed proposed legislation that would expand gambling in the southern state, the more conservative Florida House of Representatives has reportedly followed suit by overwhelmingly ratifying a measure that would essentially maintain the status quo.
Known as HB 7037, the suggested Florida House of Representatives’ measure made its way through committee last month before receiving the full Republican-dominated body’s approval on Wednesday courtesy of a 73-40 vote.
Essentially a status quo proposal designed to replace the troubled 20-year gaming compact the state signed with the Seminole Tribe Of Florida in 2010, HB 7037 would renew this existing agreement while giving the tribe the exclusive rights to offer “banked” card games such as blackjack in Miami-Dade County and Broward County.
The measure would additionally grant the tribe, which runs the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa along with four smaller casinos in the state, permission to offer slots at its venues located outside of southern Florida in return for agreeing to up by $75 million its annual contributions to the state to $325 million.
HB 7037, which must also be passed by the Florida State Senate before it can be signed into law by Republican governor Rick Scott, would moreover 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 while specifically earmarking the millions the state would receive from the Seminole Tribe Of Florida to three specific educational programs aimed at retaining and recruiting teachers, helping children in failing schools and enhancing higher education.
However, HB 7037 is at direct odds with gambling expansion legislation passed last week by the Florida State Senate known as Senate Bill 8. This measure would license a pair of new slots-only and non-aboriginal casinos for Miami-Dade County and Broward County while ending the Seminole Tribe Of Florida’s “banked” card games exclusivity in the two southern counties by permitting existing gambling facilities to feature up to 25 blackjack tables.
Furthermore, Senate Bill 8 would allow parimutuel operations in the eight previously mentioned counties to offer slots while reducing the state-wide tax rate on the machines by 10% to 25% and permit all parimutuel card rooms in the state to run “player-banked” games such as poker.
Finally, the Florida State Senate measure would boost support for the local horseracing industry by setting aside up to $20 million a year to supplement live race purse pools and give the Seminole Tribe of Florida a slots monopoly for the area around the city of Tampa while permitting the tribe to offer roulette, blackjack and craps in every one of its Florida casinos.
According to a report from Jacksonville-based television broadcaster WJXT-TV, the two bodies will now meet in hopes of reaching a compromise although the Seminole Tribe Of Florida has previously expressed its displeasure at both pieces of proposed legislation.
“Unfortunately, both the Florida State Senate and Florida House Of Representatives bills would require dramatic increases in the Seminole Tribe Of Florida’s payments without providing increases in the Seminole Tribe Of Florida’s exclusivity sufficient to justify those higher payments,” read a letter from Marcellus Osceola, Chairman for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, last month sent to governor Scott along with Joe Negron, President for the Florida State Senate, and Florida House Of Representatives Speaker Richard Corcoran.