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House to Say No to Seminoles, Maybe Yes to Gambling

November 2nd, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

A Select House committee indicated today it will not ratify a Seminole Gambling Compact negotiated by Governor Charlie Crist, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the conservative lawmakers indicated they may be willing to expand gambling in Florida.

The Seminole tribe is willing to pay Florida 150 million a year for gambling. But lawmakers were told the state could earn as much as a billion, or about 7 times more, if it licensed casinos in Florida. That got a legislative committees attention.

You do it in a controlled fashion, Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Ft. Lauderdale) said. You create a competitive bid process where you allow the type of facilities to come in that will ultimately allow us to bring in the convention business and make it a destination location. And do it tastefully, and do it right.

Even conservative lawmakers from the Panhandle blessed the idea…with a caveat.

I dont think we should be expanding gambling, Rep. Marti Coley (R-Marianna) said. If the community wants it, then Im not going to fight that.

The committee made it clear that the Seminole Tribe deal negotiated by the governor is all but dead. But the prospect of opening full-scale casinos is a dream most pari-mutuel operators never thought possible, until they heard the committee.

We have existed gambling facilities all around this state that have been in business since the 1930s, Dan Adkins with Mardi Gras Gaming, said. Why not allow them the opportunity to compete and provide revenue for the state. New jobs, more revenue. I mean, far and away more money than the Tribe can ever provide.

Unless lawmakers are bluffing to get a better deal from the Tribe, it appears voters could be asked to authorize even more gaming next November.

The Seminoles continue to operate the blackjack, poker and other games and will under federal authority, even though the state attorney general and speaker of the house want them shut down now.

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