Comprehensive gambling reform in Florida might not make it through the Legislature in 2014, says Senate President Don Gaetz.
Gov. Rick Scott has “all the cards,” Gaetz tells James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune in a series of pre-session interviews. Scott will be renegotiating the Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that is worth $200 million a year to the state.
The annual legislative session begins March 4.
Calling Scott a “great negotiator,” Gaetz believes the role of the Legislature is to set the stage with a proposal to develop a new state gaming commission and address the possibility of a number of destination casinos.
“But when the Legislature would take up that proposal depends upon the governor,” Gaetz tells the Tribune. “If the governor, in his wisdom, says, ‘I think I want to hold off on this for a few months,’ … then I think naturally it would take a couple of sessions.”
Scott has not given any indication he is ready to get involved in the gambling issue in 2014, since it is an election year; he only says that he will need time to get the best deal for Florida.
The Seminole Compact allows card games like blackjack at Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and other locations — in effect until mid-2015 unless the governor renews it.
The state receives a minimum of $1 billion from the Seminole Tribe income over five years.
In certain conditions of expanded gambling, and the Seminoles lose exclusive rights to offer card games they can reduce payments or stop paying completely.
Republican Garrett Richter, who chairs the Senate Gaming committee, held several hearings across the state as part of the process of drafting a bill that could be as much as 300 pages, scheduled for release next month.
Richter, who is also Senate president pro tem, supports at least two South Florida destination casinos, while Gaetz opposes any type of new gambling.
“Garrett Richter is a dear friend, but I told him that at the end of the day I may have to vote against his bill,” Gaetz says to the Tribune. “I don’t believe that Florida ought to be addicted to gaming revenue.”