Senate President Wants Comprehensive Gambling Bill for Florida
Florida Senate President Bill Galvano wants to see another, further-reaching gaming bill for this legislative session that starts March 5th. Galvano is a proponent of legalized sports betting and believes that the state can benefit from this industry. However, he also acknowledges that there’s a lot of work that needs to go into a new bill in order to implement a sports betting platform like other states have. Furthermore, Galvano and others recognize the sensitivity of new gaming in the state, especially since the Seminole Tribe has primary gaming rights and voters are needed to approve a new gambling activity.
Sports Gambling in Florida
Last November, Florida passed a constitutional amendment titled the “Voter Control of Gambling.” This amendment gives voters “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.” That includes expanding current games or adding more games.
Galvano says that’s not enough, though. Galvano gave a pre-session interview and talked about needing to address other gambling issues if an overarching gambling bill is filed. For example, he said this isn’t just about sports gambling, because a bill in 2019:
“would include more of a comprehensive impact on the pari-mutuels, from tax rates to hours of operation, things of that nature that we can still address.”
For Galvano, who is a lawyer and former president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, says there’s more to be discussed than what is in the constitutional amendment, like the Seminole Compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Galvano was one of the original architects of the first Compact, which was signed in 2010.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida
State legislators haven’t yet approved a renewed compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which will guarantee the state $3 billion over the next seven years from gambling revenue. Despite not having a signed agreement, the Seminoles have continued to pay Florida “in good faith” out of its take from casino gaming in return for the ongoing exclusive rights to offer slot machines and blackjack at the casino outside of South Florida.
The Seminole Tribe owns the Hard Rock brand of casinos and hotels through Florida and around the world, including those in Tampa and Hollywood.
Galvano said, speaking about the tribe and a renewed deal:
“They have made a tremendous investment, billions of dollars in their facilities, but yet they still lack craps and roulette games that are traditionally in casinos of that magnitude…I know they would like to see that. They have an interest, I understand, in (offering) sports betting and they do want stability because they can operate and work with their financiers in a more stable environment (and) they can point to an agreement that is not in flux, so to speak.”
New Gambling Legislation
Any new proposed legislation is sure to raise some objections. John Sowinski, who is president of Voters in Charge, states that only Florida voters can authorize a new form of gambling in the state, and that also includes sports betting. This power was given to them by the state’s constitution. Sowinski also stated that any bills ignoring the amendment, and its voter support, is unconstitutional and directly against the will of Florida residents.
Furthermore, Barry Richard, who is the lawyer for the Seminole Tribe, has said in the past that any approval of sports betting or even fantasy sports by the legislature would violate Florida’s promise to the Tribe of gambling exclusivity.
It’s clear that for Florida to successfully legalize sports betting they will need to not only get approval from voters, but also work out a new deal with the Seminole tribe.
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