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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Gambling overhaul faces taller odds to get out alive this session

It’s seeming even more likely that a statewide gambling overhaul won’t get out of Tallahassee this year.

House Speaker Will Weatherford on Tuesday called his chamber’s bill “more of a constriction of gaming,” setting a stark contrast to a competing Senate version.

Weatherford spoke to reporters after wrapping up the first day of the 2014 legislative session.

On Monday, the House Select committee on Gaming released its bill, which eliminates close to a dozen inactive pari-mutuel permits and creates a statewide gambling oversight body, but doesn’t allow for destination resort casinos.

The Senate’s proposal, released last week, authorizes two destination casinos in South Florida, as well as creates a gaming commission and allows local voters to decide on expanding gambling.

“We’re a long way away from the Senate,” said Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

The speaker stuck to his guns that there has to be a constitutional amendment to allow more gambling, and that Gov. Rick Scott first has to renegotiate the revenue-sharing deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which operates Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

The Seminole Compact includes a provision allowing blackjack and other card games that expires in mid-2015 unless it’s renewed.

The agreement guaranteed the state a minimum $1 billion from the tribe’s gambling income over five years. But under certain scenarios, if the tribe loses its exclusive rights to offer Las Vegas-style games through expanded gambling, it can reduce payments or stop paying altogether.

“We’re waiting on both of those two things,” Weatherford said of his conditions.

But Scott, who is up for re-election this year, has shown no desire to get involved any time soon.

His office repeatedly has issued the same statement, that he “will take the time needed to negotiate the best arrangement for Florida.”