TALLAHASSEE — A powerful state senator trying to push through a dramatic expansion of gambling in Florida recently worked for the company that owns an iconic Miami Beach hotel interested in adding slot machines.
State Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and lawyer, has acknowledged to the Associated Press that he did legal work for Turnberry Associates on a "commercial transaction" as recently as three years ago.
Turnberry Associates is a real estate development company that owns the famed Fontainebleau Hotel. In the past several years, the hotel has showered top politicians in the state and the Republican Party with more than $2 million in campaign contributions, including money that went to a political committee controlled by Galvano. One of the lobbyists representing Turnberry is Michael Corcoran, the brother of current House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
Galvano last week released a major gambling bill that covers everything from legalizing fantasy sports to allowing the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer craps and roulette at its casinos. The legislation also would allow the addition of slot machines in Miami-Dade County.
Galvano earlier this month said he has no plans to work again for Turnberry, insisting his past work was not influencing how he crafted the bill.
"The reality is whatever is in that bill … is going to be what I believe is the best path for the state of Florida," Galvano said. "And my legal work has no impact on it."
Galvano has become one of the most important legislators on gambling. While in the House, he was instrumental in shaping a 2010 deal with the Seminole Tribe that granted it the right to offer blackjack at most of its casinos and gave the tribe a monopoly on slot machines outside of South Florida. The state has collected nearly $1.7 billion from the tribe as a result.
But the blackjack provision expired in 2015. The Florida Legislature rejected a new, larger deal negotiated by Gov. Rick Scott that would have also allowed the tribe to offer craps and roulette. Galvano was tapped by Senate President Joe Negron to take the lead on trying to put together a gambling overhaul for this year's session, which begins March 7.