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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Legislative reaction to governor's gaming deal: a tough road



As Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday touted the $3 billion agreement he signed with the Seminole Tribe as a way to bring economic stability to Florida’s constantly changing gambling environment, the deal faced an uncertain future in the Florida Legislature.

“I think it’s going to be a really tough road,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, noting that its “fatal flaw” is that it benefits only gaming operations in three South Florida counties. “If we’re going to have to close down facilities that have been here 70 to 80 years so the Indians have a monopoly and can continue to expand their offerings, that’s just wrong.”

Even in South Florida, home to eight casinos that compete with the tribe, the criticism of the 20-year deal was strong.

“It’s very impressive that the governor got $3 billion to pick winners and losers and put longstanding family businesses like mine out of business,” said Izzy Havenick, vice president at Magic City Casino in Miami. His company won voter approval in Lee County for a slots license at its dog track in Bonita Springs — something that would be allowed only in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties under the deal.

“From our standpoint, we get a new casino in Miami-Dade County — right next to us — and we lose any potential to be able to offer another product at our facility in Lee County,” he said. “We’re getting hit on both coasts.”

Contributing to the negative buzz over the deal was the way the governor handled the announcement. He blindsided legislators by announcing in a letter at 8 p.m. Monday that he had finalized the deal and gave no warning to the members of House and Senate negotiating team that he had reached the agreement.

“I had no idea,” said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, who has spent the last five months as the House’s lead negotiator on the deal, meeting with the governor’s staff, the tribe’s representatives and senators. “My phone started blowing up when I was at the Miami Heat game.” More here.

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 8, 2015 8:55pm]


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