Florida Lawmakers Fold on Gambling, Decide Against Special Session
Florida Lawmakers decided against reconvening for a special session this summer to have one last go at gambling negotiations. Legislative leaders announced Wednesday that they were unable to agree after weeks of closed-door discussions. Now the decision is in voters’ hands.
Senate President Joe Negron said he was able to make progress on some critical issues in talks with House leaders, but there were too many additional factors to move forward. Negron cited “budget unpredictability” as one reason why legislative leaders decided not to take action this summer.
Additionally, said Negron, it would have been challenging to keep unrelated issues off the agenda during a special session, even if gambling was the primary focus.
The agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida expired last month. Without an active deal, around $300 million of annual gambling revenue share payments from the tribe were at risk. While the House was ready to renew gambling exclusivity rights to the tribe and ratify the compact, the Senate was pushing to give some of those rights to non-tribal operators.
Governor Rick Scott stepped in after the legislative session closed, finalizing a deal with the tribe that ensures their continued gaming revenue payments through May 2019. Under the agreement led by Scott, state gambling laws will remain the same, including the tribe’s exclusive rights.
According to the Florida Senate, several gambling issues remain unresolved. They maintain that slot machines should be allowed in counties where they were approved by voter referendum (a violation of Seminole gaming exclusivity).