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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist and Kottkamp keep pressure on at gamble meeting

For the second time Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp arrived at the conference committee meeting on gambling to let them know “obviously this is important to the governor and we want them to continue moving it along.’’

Just as the meeting began, Gov. Charlie Crist arrived as well, after speaking with the key negotiators, Sen. J.D. Alexander and Rep. Bill Galvano, earlier in the day. "I'm encouraged that they continued to work hard,'' Crist said.

Despite the hard work, the rift was still wide between the House and Senate approaches to authorizing slot machines and card games at the Seminole Tribe casinos and expanding gambling for parimutuels around the state.

Negotiators met in three conference committee meetings Tuesday, making minimal progress on points of disagreement. But they remained firmly divided on the big tickets items -- whether to allow the tribe to operate black jack and banked card games exclusively at its facilities.

The Senate had offered earlier in the day by agreeing to limit card games at the tribal casinos to only blackjack at the tribe's Immokalee, Brighton and Coconut Creek reservations. But Rep. Bill Galvano, the lead House negotiator, rejected that approach, saying that it doesn't limit the tribal games enough.

"It wasn't a real move away from banked card games,'' Galvano said. "When we came into this, banked card games were not legally authorized at tribal facilities and...the tribe still went ahead and put them in Tampa. So that creates a lot of angst for the House of Representatives.''

He noted that since it was the House that brought the suit against the governor, challenging the validity of allowing him to authoriize card games that were illegal in Floirda, "we have to be very careful that we don't reward bad behavior.''

ln the last House offer of the day, the House agreed to a provision in the now voided compact that says that if additional games were allowed at horse and dog track and jai alai frontons in Miami-Dade and Broward the compact would be voided if the tribe's revenue dropped below $1.37 billion.

Crist didn't offer much insight, other to say he was encouraged they were talking. Asked what his argument was for why the House should give the tribe blackjack? He answered: "Cuz the kids need the money.'' He said members of the Seminole Tribe would arrive Wednesday to keep the pressure on.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 5:58pm]


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