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Trying again for an agreement on gambling

TALLAHASSEE — As the $65 billion state budget is printed today for final passage on Friday, lawmakers will try again to hammer out an agreement over gambling.

And Gov. Charlie Crist is applying some not-so-subtle pressure for them to get it done.

"If it doesn't happen, you know, I may have to cut things out of this budget that are put in there," he told reporters covering the budget talks at the Capitol on Sunday.

"There are important things they want to do around the state. And I want them to be able to do them. In some ways the Seminole compact money gives us the opportunity to do those things."

The House and Senate remain split on how to approach the Seminole tribe expansion, championed by Crist, while trying to create new opportunities for race tracks and jai alai frontons.

It's up to Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, and Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Brandenton, to resolve the differences. They could begin meeting as early as today.

The deal could be worth $335 million or more to the state, though legislative leaders have not counted on it for the budget they agreed to Sunday. Instead they want the money to go into savings.

Before today, the rough terms were:

The House would raise $355 million by giving the Seminole Tribe the exclusive operation of slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The House proposal would halt blackjack and other house-banked card games and would give parimutuels outside South Florida expanded pot limits on poker.

The House also would revive the now-shuttered Hialeah track by allowing it to run quarter horse races and eventually thoroughbred racing. Quarter horse racing permit holders would also be able to operate card rooms.

The Senate would raise $505 million by expanding gambling in every area of the state. The Seminoles would get craps and roulette. South Florida tracks would get blackjack, and parimutuels elsewhere, including Tampa Bay, would get bingo-style slot machines.

Both chambers have agreed to give the parimutuel industry a 15 percent tax break.

Trying again for an agreement on gambling 05/04/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 4, 2009 9:30am]
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