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Florida House and Senate Presents Contrasting Seminole Gaming Proposal
On March 26th, 2009, the Senate of the state of Florida unveiled a no-holds barred gaming expansion that would transform Seminole resorts into full-fledged casino facilities and would permit slots-style slot machines to be offered across the state as well as keep its baccarat and blackjack games. Meanwhile, the state House launched a different gaming agenda: a proposal that would stop card games at the tribal casinos, permitting only slot machines at the Hard Rock Resort and Hotel in Hollywood casino and six other Seminole facilities.
The contrasting proposals started the gaming debate in the legislature and set up a heads-on clash between Republican legislative officials at a time when Florida is facing a $6 billion budget deficit. The Senate gaming would even permit Seminole casinos to offer craps and roulette, which, when added to the existing baccarat, blackjack and no limit poker tables already in operation, would make the casinos full fledged Las Vegas level casinos facilities.
In exchange, the Seminole tribe would pay Florida $400 million a year, 4 times the worth in their agreement with Governor Charlie Crist. The agreement would give racing tracks in Broward and Miami Dade counties, struggling to compete with Indian owned casinos a few bonuses: blackjack tables, no limit poker tables and a smaller tax rate. Across Florida, pari-mutuel establishments like jai-alai frontons and horse and greyhound racing tracks would get to offer video lottery terminals. The extra gaming could produce $1 billion in yearly income for education, according to Senator Dennis Jones, the chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee. Senators are expected to take their initial vote on the proposal today.
Senator Jim King, a Republican from Jacksonville said that they have to have some new source of revenue and he believes that making a better gaming agreement with the Seminole tribe is one of the options that they could explore. Just hours after the Senate launched its plan, the House launched its own anti-gaming plan-showing how deeply divided the two houses remain. House officials launched out a proposal directing Governor Charlie Crist to negotiate a new gaming compact minus baccarat and blackjack.
The Seminole tribe would have ninety days to close down card games, but would receive exclusive rights to offer slot machines outside South Florida. The House plans to require the Seminole tribe to pay $100 million annually for exclusive rights to offer slot machines but the tribe would protest at that amount. Under the existing federal law, the Seminole tribe may offer slot machines without the approval of the state. The legislature two chambers do not even agree on details like Florida's gaming age. The House keeps it at twenty one years old. The Senate would lower it to eighteen years old.
Monday, April 06, 2009