Conflicting Gambling Bills Reach Florida Legislature

The Florida House voted on Wednesday 73-40 in favor of a bill that if adopted with its current provisions will basically shrink the state’s gambling industry to few select options. To be more precise, the Legislature’s lower house aims to keep the existing gambling status quo.

The bill has now joined a Senate piece in the Florida Legislature. It is still unknown when exactly lawmakers are set to discuss the two proposals, but what can be said with almost complete certainty is that they are not likely to reach an agreement that easily.

If the Florida House does not see necessity for any form of gambling expansion, the Senate calls for the addition of more options at local tribal and commercial gambling properties. The state’s 2017 regular legislative session ends on May 5, which means that lawmakers have less than a month to decide on what would be the best. Both houses have previously pointed out that they are ready to negotiate and to compromise. However, given the fact that they have taken two contrasting approaches toward gambling, it is rather curious to see how far their readiness for compromise will extend.

Two important sticking points are expected to appear during negotiations – the addition of slot machines at gambling venues in eight counties where that had been approved by voters, and the Seminole Tribe casino issue.

Legislators will have to decide whether more slot machines are what the industry needs or whether it will be fair to neglect countywide votes in favor of limited gambling options.

The two houses will also have to find a solution that will satisfy the Seminole Tribe, but will be equally feasible for the state. Florida and tribal officials have been locked in battle over tribal casinos’ blackjack exclusivity for almost two years now. A federal judge sided with the tribe late last year and the state has appealed that ruling.

Both the Senate and the House have proposed their own solutions to the issue. However, none of them was welcomed by tribal officials, who argued that the tribe will have to pay more to the state without being offered that much more than what it currently has in exchange.

If the Florida Legislature fails to negotiate any agreement in relation to the two legislative proposals, it will be stuck with unsolved gambling issues for another year. What is more, any failure on a solution costs the state significant amounts of money from gambling. If any of the two bills is approved and the Seminoles settle to it, this would mean that the tribe will have to contribute $3 billion in payments to the state over the first seven years after the law had taken effect.

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