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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Are slots the way out of budget squeeze?



After meeting with school nutrition experts Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Crist heard pleas to find money to provide a nurse in each school. But in a special session starting Sept. 18, it may be necessary to cut school spending. The education department has offered a menu of up to $700-million in cuts.

Crist told reporters he hopes to stave off cuts in education and he made it clear that one way he might do that is by making sure the state gets a cut of the take from Vegas-style slots at seven casinos operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.   

"Well, I hope that the reductions don't have to be quite that much," Crist said when asked about the $700-million number. "There are some other opportunities we're looking toward to help us with the budget challenges we have today. We're negotiating with the tribe."

Asked if he sees slots as a way out of the budget squeeze, Crist said: "There's a lot of things we're looking at. I want to be open-minded and I want us to be innovative in terms of looking at things that can help us with this budget challenge that we have."

Vegas-style or class III slots on tribal lands are viewed as inevitable in Florida, because those machines are now allowed at four voter-approved Broward "racinos." But Crist may face resistance in the Legislature, chiefly from House Speaker Marco Rubio, if a tribal gaming compact is viewed as a way of balancing the state's budget. It may be seen as the growing dependence on gambling money that gambling critics have long feared.

Crist's office and the Seminole Tribe are negotiating a compact allowing slot machines on tribal lands. The Interior Department has asked for a status report on Sept. 11. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:59pm]


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