The Florida House amended the Senate’s gambling expansion bill with its own competing proposal on Tuesday and promptly passed it, setting the stage for a showdown on gambling reforms between the two chambers.

Galvano gambling bill in standoff with House bill

Senator Bill Galvano is the architect of the Senate bill that would drastically expand gambling in the state. But the polarized positions of the two competing bills make a solution unlikely this year. (Image:Twitter)

The differing bills reflect the different political leanings of each chamber: the largely conservative House seeks to freeze gambling expansion, preserving the status quo, while the more liberal Senate wants to open things up, expanding slots gaming and permitting the state’s sole tribal operator, the Seminoles, to offer craps at their Hard Rock casinos.         

Both bills seek to solve the impasse that currently exists between the state and the Seminoles over negotiations of a new compact. The Seminoles, meanwhile, have indicated they’re not particularly enthused about either bill.

Heavy Lift

Clearly, if a solution is to be found it must be through compromise, but the polarised positions of each chamber suggest this is going to be a tough one to get done this year. 

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, this week, called it “a heavy, heavy lift,” while Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), sponsor of the Senate Bill, said he “couldn’t guarantee we’ll ultimately have a final resolution.”

“I stand firm in the Senate position and will not negotiate against myself,” he added.

Both bills agree on one thing. They are seeking a revenue-sharing agreement from the Seminoles that would be worth $3 billion to the state over seven years, the biggest deal of its kind in the US.

This is the same financial agreement Governor Rick Scott was able to negotiate with the tribe in 2015 but the legislature failed to ratify the proposal last year.

Three Billion Bucks

The Scott deal offered the Seminoles craps and roulette in return for relinquishing their monopoly on blackjack and slots. The House bill allows them to retain blackjack and slots exclusivity but won’t budge on the craps and roulette.

The Senate bill, meanwhile, offers craps and roulette, but proposes to expand blackjack and slots throughout the state to a degree that’s unpalatable to the Seminoles. Either way, the tribe feels it is not getting enough bang for its three billion bucks.           

In a letter to legislative leaders last month, Seminole Tribal Council chairman Marcellus Osceola said that, while the House bill was “less objectionable,” neither bills made “economic sense for the tribe.”

The tribe’s negotiating position was strengthened late last year by a federal court judgment that the state had voided its previous compact with the tribe by permitting cardrooms and horse and dog tracks to offer banked card games and electronic blackjack machines. A judge ruled that the tribe could offer blackjack at its seven casinos in Florida until 2030.