Florida House, Senate Postpone Negotiations
The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled 4-2 that a proposed constitutional amendment on gambling was not misleading and focuses on one subject. The amendment would give Florida voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.” Following the ruling, the Florida House and Senate called off negotiations over a compromise gambling bill indefinitely.
The state Division of Elections said supporters of the amendment still must gather more than 700,000 signatures in order for it to be placed on the 2018 ballot. Election officials said 74,626 signatures already had been submitted.
Two Supreme Court justices voted against the proposed amendment, stating it was misleading because it was not clear how it would affect counties where voters have approved slot machines at dog and horse racetracks.
The legislative session will end May 5. The House and Senate both have passed gambling bills this session, but they’re dramatically different. Conference Chairman state Senator Bill Galvano said, “The Supreme Court ruled today on voter control of gaming. I want to digest the decision before moving forward.”
State Rep. Joe Geller added he and other gambling conference members also require time to read the Supreme Court decision. He said a gambling conference possibly could be scheduled for Monday, April 24.
Galvano said he had hoped to conclude gambling negotiations before the House and Senate worked on the budget, so it would include money from revenue-sharing agreements with the Seminole Tribe. But Geller said the budget conference may not begin until mid-week.
The Senate’s bill would allow the Seminole Tribe to have craps and roulette in exchange for $3 billion over seven years; authorize blackjack in parimutuels in Broward and Miami-Dade counties; and permit slot machines in eight counties in which voters have approved them. The House bill would allow the Seminoles to keep slot machines and blackjack tables for 20 years, but it would not allow adding more games. The House bill also would limit slots to tribal-run casinos and tracks in South Florida. The Seminole Tribe would have to sign off on a final gambling bill, but they have expressed dissatisfaction with both versions.
The state Supreme Court also is considering another case regarding slot machines. Eight counties besides Broward and Miami-Dade, where they are already legal, have approved slots. Palm Beach County voters approved allowing slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, but the state constitution specifically mentions only Broward and Miami-Dade as the two counties allowed to have slots. However, the constitution doesn’t say whether other counties can have them, and whether the constitution means that Broward and Miami-Dade are the only counties that can have slots. A decision could come at any time.
Meanwhile, a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research poll indicated only 8 percent of Florida voters would support the expansion of gambling in the state.