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ICYMI: Florida Senate to seek extending gambling compact 1 year

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The Florida Senate will consider extending an agreement with the Seminole Tribe that allows blackjack and other card games at six casinos by a year in an effort to buy time on a complicated issue.

Regulated Industries Committee Chairman Rob Bradley said he’ll take up a proposal next week that would allow the games to go on. Without an extension, the tribe will have to shut down card games on July 31 under the agreement signed in 2010. Other parts of the compact, including the right to operate slot machines, will continue. The tribe has paid the state more than $1 billion under the agreement.

“We’re interested in having a discussion with the tribe in an environment where we do something that makes long-term sense for taxpayers and the tribe,” Bradley said Friday.

He said that with only four weeks left in the annual session and almost every major issues unresolved, it makes sense to keep things as they are and to take a more careful look at the future of gambling in Florida.

“I’m certainly mindful that we don’t want to overload the system,” he said.

That leaves in question a House bill that would allow two massive non-tribal casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It would also let dog tracks end live greyhound racing and keep other types of gambling, including poker rooms, and allow slot machines at tracks located in Palm Beach and Lee counties.

That bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Dana Young of Tampa, said she’s still hopeful the Senate will consider her proposal, but said she hasn’t yet looked at Bradley’s proposal on the compact.

“Certainly we have always been open minded and been willing to talk about all the issues related to gambling in Florida,” she said. “I don’t think it has any impact on the gaming legislation that’s working its way through the House. “

Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the tribe, said they are studying the Senate proposal.

The Seminoles have been airing television ads and engaged in a major public relations effort to persuade legislators to keep the current deal intact. The tribe’s casinos include the highly profitable Hard Rock Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa.

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