State Politics

Gambling compact nixed in House

MANATEE — A Florida House committee chaired by state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, unanimously declined Thursday to ratify a compact that would set new parameters for gambling in Florida.

“The committee voted unanimously to not approve the compact that the governor and the (Seminole) Tribe (of Florida) sent to us,” Galvano said late Thursday after a meeting in Tallahassee of the Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review.

Galvano opposed ratification of the proposed compact with the Seminole Tribe, which operates casinos, and urged fellow committee members to do the same, he said.

“It would have created too great of a monopoly in the Seminole Tribe, and did not have regulatory safeguards I felt were necessary to protect the people of Florida,” Galvano said after the meeting.

He noted, however, that the committee’s action does not preclude further negotiation.

A statement issued by the Seminole Tribe said, “While the leaders of the Seminole Tribe are disappointed with today’s vote, they are optimistic that with the continued strong support of Gov. Crist, a resolution of the compact issue will ultimately be achieved.”

It emphasized that as of the end of January, the tribe will have paid $225 million to the state for the education of Florida’s children, according to terms of earlier compact agreement that was federally approved.

Last spring, legislators OK’d a new gambling pact, but its details were to be worked out over the summer between Gov. Charlie Crist and the tribe.

Last fall, Crist and the Seminoles quietly signed an agreement that would keep slot machines and blackjack games at the tribe’s South Florida casinos.

In exchange, the tribe would make $150 million a year in payments to the state. But the legislature still must ratify the pact for it to go into effect, Galvano said.

Asked what the sentiment might be in the Florida Senate, which also must approve, Galvano replied, “I think the Senate understands the direction we’ve taken and intends to work with us to bring this issue to a conclusion over the next few months.”

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031 or at skennedy@bradenton.com.

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