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Bill Galvano tells Seminole Tribe his gambling bill “will move forward”

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Bill Galvano, the Florida Senate’s point man on gambling, has told the Seminole Tribe of Florida “inaction … is not an option” this year.

Galvano, the Bradenton Republican in line to be Senate President in 2018-20, responded this week to a letter sent by Tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola to legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott.

Both chambers have gambling legislation filed this year with competing priorities, but both contemplate a new agreement, or “compact,” with the Tribe offering exclusive rights to keep offering blackjack in return for $3 billion in revenue share over seven years.

“Approval of a new, revised compact must occur concurrently with, and is interdependent upon, resolution of a number of gaming issues, including matters relating to and affecting Florida’s pari-mutuel industry, cardrooms, designated player games, blackjack, and operation of slot machine facilities in the referendum counties,” Galvano wrote.

“Without a doubt, resolving these matters will require patient and thoughtful, good-faith negotiations between and among all the affected parties,” he added. “I am prepared, on behalf of the Senate, to do just that.”

At the same time, he said the Senate’s gambling bill (SB 8) “will continue to move … forward.”

But Osceola had objected to the Senate bill, saying it “would require higher payments … (and) would add numerous additional exceptions to the Tribe’s exclusivity while broadly expanding gaming in Florida.”

He also included a copy of an advisory letter from the federal government’s top Indian gambling regulator, who said the feds would be “hard-pressed” to approve the proposed new blackjack agreement as is.

The Seminoles offer blackjack at five of their casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa.

Galvano closed his own letter by asking for a meeting with members of the Tribe “to discuss this matter in detail.”

Meantime, an appeal to a federal judge’s ruling allowing the Tribe to keep offering blackjack, compact or no compact, has been scheduled for an April 11 mediation, court dockets show.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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