Lawmakers could start hashing out differences between two vastly different approaches to Florida's gambling footprint as early as Monday.
During floor action Wednesday, Sen. Bill Galvano, who is shepherding the upper chamber's gambling plan, asked Senate President Joe Negron to appoint members of a "conference committee" to negotiate with the House.
A House bill represents what its leaders call a "status quo" gambling plan that would revamp a 20-year agreement, known as a "compact," with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. In contrast, a Senate bill is friendly to the pari-mutuel industry and would lead to an expansion of gambling, including allowing pari-mutuels to add slot machines in eight counties where voters have approved them.
Negron named Galvano, R-Bradenton, as the Senate chair of the conference committee, with other members including Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers; Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens; Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton; and Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. Negron, R-Stuart, said Wednesday the conference won't begin before Monday.
Legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott's office are trying to strike a new deal with the Seminoles after the 2015 expiration of a provision in a 20-year compact approved in 2010. That provision gave the tribe exclusive rights to operate “banked” card games, such as blackjack.
The tribe filed a lawsuit over the banked card games, accusing the state of breaching the compact by allowing what are known as "designated player" games at pari-mutuel card rooms. A federal judge last fall sided with the Seminoles, heightening the desire on both sides to craft a new agreement. Under the 2010 compact, the tribe agreed to pay the state $1 billion over five years in exchange for the exclusive rights to conduct the banked card games, an amount the Seminoles have exceeded.