Back on December 7, when Gov. Rick Scott announced that he'd come to an agreement for a gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe, legislators and casino experts warned of potholes, roadblocks, and barriers en route to the necessary legislative approval.
With only days remaining in this year’s legislative session, apparently the final resting place for the proposal looks to be the Senate Appropriations Committee, where on Thursday, Committee Chairman Tom Lee again declined to bring up the bill. The session ends March 11, and the proposed seven-year, $3 billion agreement is sidelined.
Legislators outside of South Florida wanted gambling too. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, added an amendment that would allow the six counties that approved referenda to also have slots. The problem is, the compact with the Seminoles calls for slot exclusivity outside of South Florida. (Tampa is really their cash cow.) Adding those slots in the method Negron suggested went against Florida’s methodology. It took a statewide referendum in 2004 – which barely passed, with 50.8 percent – then separate county votes, which faced opposition campaigns, for slots to be approved in Broward and Miami-Dade. Just having the Legislature approve slots in another part of the state drew rightful objections from other legislators.
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Other legislators outside of South Florida didn’t want
The Legislature didn’t care about helping Gov. Rick Scott. Scott funded his own campaign, ousting the party’s favorite in the Republican primary back in 2008, and has always struggled to work and play well with others. For example, when he announced December 7 that he and the tribe had reached a compact agreement, hours earlier, Senate President Andy Gardiner was quoted as saying he didn’t think the governor and the tribe were close at all to a compact. There were very few legislators out there who, strictly as a favor to Scott, supported the compact.
Legislators flipped too many switches, pushed too many buttons. Interests from racinos, the horseracing industry, and other facets of Florida somehow convinced some legislators that the compact and all other tweaks to the gambling landscape in Florida needed to be linked. They did not and still do not. The Legislature could have passed just the compact and worked out the pari-mutuel questions, such as whether to allow the decoupling of racing and casinos, how much to reduce slot taxes and details of blackjack at pari-mutuels later. Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Rob Bradley probably put it best: “The bill had a lot of ornaments added to it, and the tree eventually gets too many ornaments and it falls over,” Bradley told Tallahassee reporters Tuesday.