Florida Legislators Negotiate Special Session in Last-Ditch Effort to Settle Gambling Issues

There is still no agreement or recommendations for a special legislative session in Florida, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano told local media on Friday.

It has become known that state lawmakers are considering a special two-day session at the end of April to discuss and hopefully agree on a comprehensive gambling legislation after failing to complete the task during the regular session.

Legislators convened January 9 for a 60-day session. The two chambers of the state Legislature each tabled a gambling-oriented bill earlier this year but failed to reach an agreement on the future of Florida’s gambling industry before they adjourned on March 9.

News about ongoing negotiations over a special session emerged after House Speaker Richard Corcoran voiced concerns that the state budget could lose much-needed gaming revenue from the Seminole Tribe, which currently pays hundreds of millions to the state in exchange for exclusivity over blackjack.

A special session could be the Florida Legislature’s last chance to introduce changes to gambling laws without having to ask residents for their opinion on the matter. Florida residents will cast their vote at the November ballot on a constitutional amendment that, if approved, will limit significantly legislators’ power over gambling-related issues. Under the proposed amendment (Amendment 3) any reforms to the state’s existing gambling law should first be approved by a voters’ majority.

Sen. Galvano told local news outlet Florida Politics that there are ongoing discussions over a special legislative session but an agreement or recommendations for the move are yet to be made.

The Seminoles Not in Contact with Legislators

Local news outlet Tallahassee Democrat reports that the Seminole Tribe has not been in contact with Florida lawmakers since negotiations over a special session have begun.

The tribe was required to make monthly payments to the state under a 2010 compact in exchange for exclusivity over the provision of blackjack within Florida. That portion of the compact expired in the summer of 2015 and tribal officials threatened to stop making the payments, arguing that the state breached their agreement by allowing non-tribal facilities to offer designated player games.

The tribe continued making the monthly payments over the next two and a half years since July 2015, while discussing the terms of a new compact with the state. However, the two parties have failed to reach a new agreement so far.

Under a previous settlement over blackjack litigation, the tribe had to make monthly payments up until March 31, 2018. It was no longer obligated to share a portion of its revenue with the state after that date.

Barry Richard, attorney for the tribe, told local media that the Seminoles were in no hurry to “stop those payments” as they were dependent on the state’s economy. He went on to say that if the tribe is offered exclusivity over more table games or extension of the compact, it may agree to contribute additional revenue to the state.

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