Florida State Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), sponsor of the state’s new comprehensive gambling expansion bill, is under fire over failing to declare a possible conflict of interest.

Florida gambling bill sponsor State Senator Bill Galvano

Florida State Senator Bill Galvano admits he worked for Fontainebleau owner Turnberry, but insists this had nothing to do with helping them get a gambling license. His gaming bill, meanwhile, is about doing what’s best for the state, he said. (Image: Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Galvano recently worked for luxury real-estate company Turnberry Associates, the company that owns the historic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. It’s believed Turnberry has been angling for a gambling license, because it wants to operate slots machines at the hotel.

Political Donations

Galvano’s bill covers a wide range of gambling issues affecting the state, from DFS regulation to its ongoing negotiations with the Seminole tribal casino operator. But its most radical target is the expansion of slots into counties where they have been approved by voters. That includes Miami-Dade Country.

Campaign finance records also show that the Fontainebleau contributed almost $2.3 million in political donations in Florida over the past few years, including $800,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $90,000 in to political committees run by Galvano himself.

Galvano acknowledged to the AP that he worked for Turnberry Associates in his capacity as a lawyer on a “commercial transaction,” but that was three years ago, he said.

“The reality is whatever is in that bill … is going to be what I believe is the best path for the state of Florida, where I think the Senate wants to go based on the last several years,” he added. “And my legal work has no impact on it.”

He refused to go into the nature of his work for Turnberry for reasons of attorney-client privilege, but emphasized that it had nothing to do with the company’s pursuit of a gaming license.

Three Billion Dollar Deal

Galvano is a highly influential senator when it comes to gambling issues. He was one of the architects of the 2011 compact between the state and the Seminoles, which afforded the tribe exclusivity on “banked” games like blackjack, in return for $1 billion to be paid to the state over five years.

His new bill would resurrect a proposal, negotiated last year between the Seminoles and Florida Governor Rick Scott, that would give the tribe the exclusive right to offer craps and roulette in exchange for a revenue sharing deal worth $3 billion to the state over seven years. It would be the biggest casino revenue-sharing deal the US has ever seen.

This move would pave the way for the expansion of blackjack, previously the domain of the Seminoles, into pari-mutuel venues outside tribal lands, as well as the expansion of slots elsewhere.