TALLAHASSEE— The Florida Senate approved a gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida on Thursday morning that will give the tribe exclusive rights to card games and slot machines in what backers say will mean $41.5 billion for the state over the next five years.
The bill, the fate of which was not in doubt, was approved by the chambers on a 29-9 vote and will now travel to the House, which is also expected to approve the measures.
“We’ve had gaming in this state for 85 years, ” said Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole “ This is an opportunity for the next 20 years to work with the tribe who are willing to pay us $1 billion for that privilege. In addition, this legislation will help keep the 26,000 jobs in our pari-mutuel industry, something they’ve worked hard for over the past three years.”
The measure would ratify a compact signed by the governor and tribe on April 7 that allows the tribe to operate Las Vegas style slot machines at its seven casinos and banked card games at five of seven facilities including the tribe’s casino in Immokalee.
Pari-mutuel facilities would be allowed to extend hours and offer historic racing and no-limit poker. The plan also lowers tax rates for slot machines operation in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The compact gives the tribe exclusive rights to card games for five years and slots for 20.
Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, was the only member to speak in opposition, saying the financial gains from gambling revenue do not outweigh its social ills surrounding it.
“The Florida Legislature is making a mistake and the governor of the state of Florida is making a mistake to go down this road and expand gambling,” Storms said.