Gambling talks start and stop again with no resolution
Lawyers for Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe met on Wednesday for the second full day of talks since they began negotiations in early July and many of the same issues that divide them remain, said George LeMieux, who is representing the governor.
But Rep. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who led the House negotiations on the compact legislation, suggested that the tribe is operating under flawed thinking if it assumes it is entitled to all the games it was awarded in the first compact. And, he adds, it is now operating those games illegally.
The sticking points continue to be: giving the tribe the exclusive right to operate slot machines and card games; the scope of the games they will be allowed to offer; the money they will agree to pay in exchange for their exclusivity; and the amount of state regulation they will accept.
The tribe has balked at the take-it-or-leave it deal lawmakers offered that urges the governor to give the tribe black jack and other banked card games at no more than three of its seven casinos, and pay the state no less than $150 million a year, LeMieux told the Herald/Times.
The first compact the governor negotiated with the tribe, which was voided by the Florida Supreme Court, allowed the tribe to operate the card games at all its casinos and pay the state $100 million a year. The tribe has since opened slot machines and card games at its two Broward casinos and its casino in Immokalee but, under the legislature's plan, it would have to give up the card games in Immokalee.
"The tribe's position is, if they have less possibilities to have gaming, they are going to give the state less revenue,'' LeMieux said.
But Galvano questions their suggestion that they would be given "fewer" games. "Their effort to use the voided compact as a floor is just not right,'' he said. "The court found that there was no deal ever and when we looked it it we looked at it fresh with a new perspective with testimony and reviewed the facts to the best of our abilty.''
Galvano said the U.S. attorney and the Florida attorney general have jurisdiction to go in and shut down the trib'es Class III slot machines and banked card games but may be waiting to see if there will be any resolution of the compact."If the proposed compact doesn't come together, I don't know that there is anything else the state can do,'' he said.
If the compact talks fail, the state can ask the federal government to shut down the games, just as the tribe can as the federal government to step in and impose a compact on the state.
"That’s why there’s so much to be risked by turning away from a very reasonable deal,'' Galvano told the Herald/Times. He noted that after the legislature ratifies the compact, it has to pass review by the federal government "to make sure it is fair.''
LeMieux, however, makes it clear this is no easy task. "We're trying to come to an agreement that Seminoles and the Legislature and the governor can agree with,'' he said. But, while lawmakers provided the governor with certain conditions "we're remembering this is a negotiation and the Seminoles have to agree with them too."
He said talks will continue by phone next week.