Florida Reaches Final Day to Make a Gambling Deal

Florida lawmakers are prepared for a session that could run late into the night tonight, on what is their last day to finalize a deal on gambling legislation. Leaders from the House and Senate held a conference committee meeting last night to re-negotiate the lay of the state's gambling landscape.

The legislative session was originally scheduled to end today, but leaders were forced to extend it until Sunday to finish the state budget. According to Senator Bill Galvano, the extension is exclusively for the budget, meaning gambling is still at the wire.

Last night saw a glimmer of progress. For the first time in two years of negotiations, House leaders agreed to increase the number of slot machine licenses in the state. However, the terms of the agreement very carefully avoid an expansion of slot machines by requiring some operators to give up around 500 machines they were already allowed to have.

Though the Senate was pushing to legalize slot machines in all of the eight counties where voters approved them, the House only agreed to accept three new slot machine licenses. The new licensees would have to be located at least 100 miles away from the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, and at least 25 miles from all of the tribe's other casino properties.

The agreement still does not cover all the points included in the Senate gambling bill that passed this week. In addition to agreeing amongst themselves, the legislature must finalize the state compact with the Seminole tribe.

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