House Approves Seminole Gambling Pact

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: April 20, 2010 12:19 AM

While the House had been a barrier to previous gambling pacts in 2007 and 2009, state representatives joined the Senate on Monday in passing a Seminole gaming compact by a 74-39 vote.

Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, maneuvered the measure through the session, bringing it to both a second and third reading on Monday and then moving it through questions and debate.

The measure would grant the Seminoles the right to run blackjack and other card games for five years in five of their seven casinos. The agreement also grants the Seminoles permission to run slot machines for twenty years. The pact also allows pari-mutuels to set up 350 video bingo machines and extends the hours for poker rooms.

“We have negotiated a Class III slots compact for a term of 20 years,” said Galvano. “The Seminoles will share revenue with the state of Florida.”

“Over the first five years, there is a $1 billion guarantee,” said Galvano. Breaking the numbers down, Galvano said the guarantee involved $150 million in the first two years and $233 million for the remaining three years.

He said the tribal casinos would be subject to independent audits and random inspections. The tribes would also be forced to designate non-smoking areas in the casinos and spent $1.75 million annually to fight gambling addiction.

Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, asked about would happen if the compact was not approved. Galvano said the tribe would turn toward the federal government if the measure was rejected.

Democrats and Republicans alike praised the measure, citing it as a good deal for the state and a chance to protect Floridians who choose to gamble.

“The spinoff of the gambling creates long term jobs, jobs in our communities,” said Rep. Esteban Bovo, R-Hialeah. “The pact is a real stimulus package.”

Conservative Republicans were divided about the impact casino gambling could have on morals and children.

“This is not the right message to teach our youth,” said Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, R-Jacksonville who added Las Vegas-style gambling should stay in Las Vegas. 

“It damages our faith, our families and our freedom,” said Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, in a passionate speech opposing the measure.

“This gambling pact is evil and it brings evil upon Floridians,” he said. Quoting the Bible passage that says “money is the root of all evil,” Van Zant maintained that the pact would see an increase in gambling, drug use, alcoholism, prostitution and crime in general.

“If you don’t like gambling, then regulate it,” replied Galvano in his closing remarks. “That’s what this is all about.”

Other conservatives, including incoming Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, voted against the bill but did not take to the floor to oppose it.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or (850) 727-0859.


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