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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Lawmakers suggest more games at Seminole casinos

TALLAHASSEE — Allowing Seminole Tribe casinos to offer roulette and craps could be a bargaining chip in striking a new revenue-sharing deal between the tribe and the state, the chair of the Senate’s Gaming committee said. He’s now the second lawmaker on that panel to mention adding games to the Seminoles’ portfolio.

An agreement known as the Seminole Compact allows the tribe to offer Vegas-style gambling, save for roulette and craps, at centers including Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

That deal included a card-game provision that needs to be renegotiated next year. It guaranteed the state a minimum $1 billion from the tribe’s gambling income over five years.

“I think there’s a likelihood, or there could potentially be a likelihood, that roulette and craps become a negotiating item at the governor’s disposal,” Garrett Richter, R-Naples, told reporters this week.

Gov. Rick Scott’s office declined to comment on any future talks with the tribe, saying only the governor “will take the time needed to negotiate the best arrangement for Florida.”

Richter’s committee and a similar one in the House are mulling statewide gambling overhaul bills, including a possible addition of destination casino resorts.

“I think the tribe would probably like to have those games,” Richter said. “It’s always good if you’re going to negotiate with somebody to have something they want.”

In October, Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, said that if Florida allowed the Seminoles to offer roulette and craps, which now are prohibited, “we would probably, without opening one new casino, have much more money.”

Seminole Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner has said the tribe “is not negotiating for additional games, and is happy with the games it has now.” Those games include slot machines and blackjack.

But, he added, “at any casino, the addition of a new game requires the hiring and training of dealers to ensure the best possible customer experience,” which would mean new jobs.

A Senate bill could include language creating a statewide Gaming Control Commission. A draft measure is scheduled to be ready for discussion by the next meeting on Feb. 10.

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