Bill Galvano Introduces a Slots and Banked Games Bill to Florida Legislature
A new gambling proposal is being discussed in the Florida State Legislature that would increase slot machine gambling in the state. If Sen. Bill Galvano’s gambling bill is approved, racetracks in eight Florida counties would be able to install slot machines if their county approved such a measure.
Galvano’s bill also would allow South Florida pari-mutuel racetracks to offer blackjack games. Meanwhile, tracks could do away with greyhound racing, while maintaining their slots parlors and cardrooms.
Controversial Provisions in the Bill
Such a bill likely is going to be controversial. One of the reasons given for allowing racetracks to operate casino-style gaming venues over the past 15 years is the need to save the dog training and horse training industries. Doing away with greyhound racing would undermine one of the stated reasons for the racinos.
Also, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has a gaming compact which is supposed to restrict the expansion of gambling, especially banked games like blackjack. The Seminoles have stated in the past that their compact allows them to stop paying billions of dollars in gaming taxes, if the legislature expands gambling without their consultation.
Galvano: “Comprehensive on the Industry Side”
Sen. Galvano told the News Service of Florida that his comprehensive bill is meant to address every issue facing Florida’s gaming industry. He said, “To effectively address an issue like gaming that involves an almost century-old industry and a sovereign within our own borders, it has to be rolled out procedurally correct.”
“The bill that has been filed is comprehensive on the industry side. It really includes most everything that has been discussed of late.”
The bill could be the latest move in Florida’s ongoing negotiations with the Seminoles. Gov. Rick Scott’s adminstration had a compact with the Seminole Tribe in December 2015, but the legislature did not pass the compact.
Banked Games Provisions
That means that the compact on banked games expired in late-2015. The two sides continue to negotiate, but those negotiations are set to gain pace in the coming months. When negotiations began to heat up in mid-2015, Florida’s legislature began crafting bills which would greatly expand private gambling interests. In that case, the bill seemed to be a bargaining chip with the state’s main Native American tribal gaming authority.
The Seminoles took the state to court over the banked games law. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that the state’s stance on banked games violated its own laws. The 2010 gaming compact gave the Seminoles a virtual monopoly on banked games in exchange for $1 billion in payments. The tribe eventually contributed more than the compact prescribed.
Eight Counties Wants Slot Machines
Despite that solid record, Floridians in eight counties have challenged the compact, perhaps resentful that the tribal gaming interests have been able to monopolize the revenues.
Bill Galvano discussed the complicated dynamics of the ongoing negotiations, which pit two sides who believe they have rock-solid arguments. Sen. Galvano said of the Seminoles, “They’ve been good partners with us, and the funds are substantial. But it’s hard to ignore voters in eight counties that are telling us that they not only want these games but they want the revenues and the economic development that come from them.”
Though he praised the Seminole tribe’s dedication and prompt payment, Galvano suggested what many Floridians believe: that the Seminoles should not represent the entirety of Florida’s gambling interests.
In a state so large and with so much tourism, many believe the local environment can support a wide-ranging tribal and private gaming climiate. Galvano said of his bill, “So when you look at gaming comprehensively, you can’t ignore the economic development that comes on the private industry side and simply just look at revenue that comes on the compact side.”
Current Florida Gambling Legislation
For a state with a single party running both the governor’s mansion and the legislature, Florida seems to be undergoing major upheaval in the way it approaches gambling legislation right now. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott are having a showdown over funding for the Florida State Lottery. That issue is but one of several showdowns Corcoran and Scott, both Republicans, are having at the moment.
Richard Corcoran filed a lawuit against IGT over its contract with the Florida Lottery. Corcoran claims the Florida Lottery obligated the legislature to pay IGT costs beyond its budget, which is an usurpation of the legislature’s perogative over funding. The major driver in the current showdown seems to be Richard Corcoran’s ascension to head the Florida House of Representatives, and his determination to reclaim power from the governor’s office for the direction of policy in the state.