Senate responds to Seminoles on gambling, seeks meeting

The day before the legislative session opened Tuesday, Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who is the chamber’s go-to gambling guy, sent a letter to Seminole tribal leaders saying a new deal with the state won’t happen unless lawmakers also pass a major gambling package.

Galvano’s letter, on behalf of the Senate, comes after the Seminoles told Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders that competing bills moving in the two chambers won’t work for the tribe. The tribe contends that the proposals won’t get the required approval of the U.S. Department of the Interior because the plans don’t give the Seminoles enough “exclusivity” in exchange for the $3 billion minimum guarantee over seven years the state is seeking.

In Monday’s letter, Galvano noted that he has stressed that “inaction on the subject of gaming is not an option,” in part because of pending litigation. A federal judge decided that the tribe can continue to offer lucrative blackjack games, but the state has appealed the ruling.

The Florida Supreme Court is also poised to rule on a lawsuit that could have far-reaching implications about whether pari-mutuels in counties where voters have approved slot machines can add slots without the express say-so of the Legislature.

“Negotiations between and among all parties must address all Florida gaming issues in order to pass meaningful comprehensive gaming legislation. In short, approval of a new, revised compact must occur concurrently with, and is interdependent upon, resolution of a number of gaming issues, including matters relating to and affecting Florida’s pari-mutuel industry, cardrooms, designated player games, blackjack, and operation of slot machine facilities in the referendum counties,” Galvano wrote to Marcellus Osceola, chairman of the Seminole tribal council.

“Without a doubt, resolving these matters will require patient and thoughtful, good faith negotiations between and among all the affected parties. I am prepared, on behalf of the Senate, to do just that,” Galvano added.

Galvano also said he intends to keep moving his bill — essentially a pari-mutuel industry wish-list —  forward while negotiations with the state take place, and asked for a meeting with Osceola “or one of your representatives to discuss this matter in detail.”

Posted by Dara Kam