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State of the State: Bill Galvano “surprised” at no mention of Seminole Compact

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Senate Republican Leader Bill Galvano on Tuesday said he was “surprised” that Gov. Rick Scott made no mention of a new deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would allow them to keep offering blackjack at their casinos.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I think everybody involved in the process around that issue is skeptical we’ll be able to get it through.”

The new deal could drive hundreds of millions of dollars into the state treasury, money that would help pay for Scott’s goal of cutting state taxes by $1 billion. The governor also wants a $250 million business incentive fund.

Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said the new Seminole Compact will be “workshopped” in his chamber. He spoke with reporters directly after Scott’s State of the State address, which opens the annual Legislative Session.

“We’ll take a look at it and see if there is a better way to operate,” said Galvano, an attorney who helped draft the original agreement with the tribe that was approved when he was a member of the Florida House.

In 2010, the tribe agreed to pay at least $1 billion into the state treasury for rights to offer the card game at seven of its casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. That provision expired this past summer, requiring a renegotiation.

The broad outline of the latest deal is it allows the tribe to continue offering blackjack at its casinos in return for a $3 billion cut of the take over seven years.

It also would let the Seminoles add roulette and craps tables, as well as permit the Legislature to OK slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and allow blackjack at some South Florida racetracks “with some limitations” – all of which have raised the ire of gambling opponents.

Galvano’s colleague, state Sen. Rob Bradley, agreed that money from blackjack would help lawmakers warm up to Scott’s wish list. Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, chairs the Regulated Industries committee that oversees gambling issues.

“If we’re going to pay for $250 million in new economic development money, if we’re going to have a billion dollars in tax cuts, and we’re going to have record spending on education, the ultimate question is: Do revenues equal the expenditures?” he said.

“Early indications are that it’s going to be difficult to make those numbers work without having another large source of revenue. So I think the Seminole Compact should be viewed as being part of the … revenue side of the equation.”

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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