TALLAHASSEE – Despite being shot down two weeks ago, Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday that a gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is still in the cards.
Ever optimistic, Crist told reporters in Tallahassee that a deal could still be struck despite a recent House committee vote to kill the latest agreement between the tribe and the governor.
“I know what the committee vote was, I saw that. But I also saw the promising comments by Chairman (Bill) Galvano after the vote,” Crist told reporters after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. ”You know the session hasn’t even started yet so I think to (say) that it’s concluded before the session hasn’t even begun wouldn’t be prudent.”
On Jan. 14, the Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review unanimously rejected a compact negotiated by the governor and the tribe to offer certain card games and give the state a cut of the proceeds.
So far, Crist has been unsuccessful in his bid to pen a deal that would allow the tribe to add blackjack and some other card games at its seven casinos, including Immokalee. Despite repeated rebuffs from the House, Crist included $433 million in Indian gambling revenue as part of a $22.7 billion education package unveiled Monday.
Crist said he’s sympathetic to lawmakers’ concerns that non-Indian facilities, including the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound track, would be hurt by expanding Indian gambling and want other changes to better compete.
“Obviously (lawmakers) have a strong desire to help the pari-mutuels in Florida. I think that’s abundantly clear to everybody,” Crist said. “That is not necessarily mutually exclusive with having a compact that is acceptable to the tribe as well.”
One proposal being floated by state Rep. Ellen Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, would allow non-Indian gambling along the South Florida coast.
Crist also didn’t rule out going back to the negotiating table with the tribe to hammer out a new deal.
“That’s certainly conceivable because we want to do whatever we can to make sure we get that money for education for Florida’s children,” Crist said.