After passing through committee in January, proposed legislation that would expand gambling in Florida and renegotiate the southern state’s stalled compact with the casino-operating Seminole Tribe Of Florida has reportedly been ratified by the full Florida State Senate.
According to a report from Sunshine State News, the measure from Florida State Senator Bill Galvano is known as Senate Bill 8 and passed through the chamber on Thursday. If subsequently approved by the Florida House Of Representatives and signed into law by Republican governor Rick Scott, the legislation would license a pair of new slots-only casinos for Miami-Dade County and Broward County and permit existing gambling facilities in the two counties to offer up to 25 blackjack tables.
In addition, Galvano’s measure would allow slots to be licensed at facilities in Brevard County, Duval County, Gadsden County, Hamilton County, Lee County, Palm Beach County, St Lucie County and Washington County while reducing the state-wide tax rate on the machines by 10% to 25%.
Perhaps most controversial, Senate Bill 8 would moreover see the Seminole Tribe Of Florida officially lose its state-wide “banked” card games monopoly along with its exclusive right to offer slots outside of Miami-Dade County and Broward County. However, the tribe would retain slot exclusivity for the area around the city of Tampa and be given the right to offer roulette, blackjack and craps in every one of its Florida casinos in exchange for agreeing to make a contribution of $325 million a year.
Finally, the proposed legislation would allow all parimutuel card rooms in the state to run “player-banked” games such as poker while it is to boost support for the horseracing industry by setting aside up to $20 million a year to supplement live race purse pools.
“This legislation builds on work that has taken place and input received by the [Florida State] Senate over the last several years,” read a statement from Republican Galvano. “The bill covers all aspects of gaming in our state in a comprehensive manner that addresses industry instability caused by antiquated and ambiguous provisions of current law. It renews our ongoing revenue-sharing agreement with the Seminole Tribe Of Florida and recognizes the authority of local voters. Today’s action is an important step towards finalizing a state-wide approach that respects all stakeholders while modernizing Florida’s gaming laws and maximizing revenues to the state for education, health care and infrastructure.”
The Seminole Tribe Of Florida, which operates 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, previously expressed its dissatisfaction with Senate Bill 8 while the measure is additionally up against rival legislation from the Florida House Of Representatives known as House Bill 7037.
“This legislation will provide needed certainty and predictability in our state gaming policies,” read a statement from Joe Negron, the Republican President for the Florida State Senate. “I am pleased to see the [Florida State] Senate pass legislation that ratifies the 2015 compact executed by governor Scott with modifications that ensure we honor the will of our fellow citizens in the eight counties that have approved referenda to expand the availability of gaming options. I appreciate Senator Galvano’s leadership in working with all stakeholders to formalize a comprehensive piece of legislation that provides a foundation for further discussions with governor Scott, our colleagues in the Florida House [Of Representatives], the Seminole Tribe [Of Florida], industry stakeholders and constituents.”