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Pressure stays on today for Seminole gambling deal

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist and members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida will be on hand today as legislators continue work on the remaining unresolved issue of the session — the gambling agreement.

Crist and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp arrived at meeting of the gambling negotiators late Tuesday to keep the pressure on as progress stalled on the issues dividing the House and Senate on a gambling deal.

"I'm encouraged that they continue to work hard," Crist said, after budget negotiators finished putting the final touches on the budget bills.

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 officially met three times Tuesday, but failed to resolve their differences over whether to allow the tribe to operate blackjack and banked card games exclusively at its facilities.

The Senate had offered earlier in the day to allow the tribe to offer only blackjack at the tribe's Immokalee, Brighton and Coconut Creek reservations but giving it the additional card games of baccarat and chemin de fer at its Hard Rock casinos in Hollywood and Tampa.

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," said Galvano, R-Bradenton. "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 authorize card games that were illegal in Florida, "We have to be very careful that we don't reward bad behavior."

Galvano, however, was confident they would reach agreement by Friday. "We're making progress," he said.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com.

Pressure stays on today for Seminole gambling deal 05/06/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 8:16pm]
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