Gov. Crist still pushing for gaming deal with Seminole Tribe

Florida Governor Charlie Crist was on hand to dedicate the Henderson Creek Bridge and Trail at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Friday in East Naples.  The bridge project began in 2006 and cost $1,227,00. The bridge will connect with nature trails to see wildlife in their environment. Erik Kellar/Staff

Photo by ERIK KELLAR

Florida Governor Charlie Crist was on hand to dedicate the Henderson Creek Bridge and Trail at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Friday in East Naples. The bridge project began in 2006 and cost $1,227,00. The bridge will connect with nature trails to see wildlife in their environment. Erik Kellar/Staff

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.

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