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Talks On Hold Between Florida and Seminoles Regarding Gaming Agreement

Talks over a gaming agreement between Governor Crist and the Seminole Tribe have been on hold for the last 2 weeks as they wait on whether the Florida House and Senate will change their new offer.

George LeMieux, the former chief of Staff to Governor Charlie Crist who is on the team representing the governor in the negotiations, said that the ball is kind of in the hands of the legislators right now.

But Representative Bill Galvano (Bradenton-Republican) who has been the House's main negotiators on the matter said on July 27th, 2009 that he believes the law passed by legislators for the talks was the final word.

The legislature gave Gov. Crist until August 31st, 2009 to finalize a contract with the Seminole tribe that would allow them to offer card games like blackjack and class three slot machines at the gaming facilities in South Florida.

The agreement will also permit the Seminoles to offer slot machines at their facilities in Southwest Florida, Tampa and Central. In exchange for these privileges, the tribe would pay Florida at least $150 million annually.

But legislators did not rule out the chance for expanded gaming elsewhere-like allowing slot machines at Miami International Airport and in other areas of the state. They said that if legislators allow gaming expansion, the tribe would not owe Florida as much gaming money.

The tribe wants the exclusive privilege to offer slot machines outside of South Florida and the failure of lawmakers to guarantee that condition has been the main sticking point in the formal meetings held between the two sides.

Rep. Galvano was present at the meetings, as was Senate President Jeff Atwater's chief of staff Budd Kneip. Senate spokesperson Jaryn Emhof said that Speaker was more an observer than a participant. Galvano made it clear that the legislature already fulfilled its part. But LeMieux believes that the inflexibility of the legislature could lead to no formal agreement.

LeMieux, whose first try at negotiating the gaming compact was cancelled by the Florida Supreme Court because it allowed card games like blackjack that were not permitted in the state, said that legislation approved last spring improved on the first gaming agreement. He said that he thinks that the legislature did some improvements but both sides need to be flexible or the talks will not prosper.

LeMieux said that he fears that if Florida fails to make a new agreement with the Seminole tribe, the federal government will step in to solve the situation and give the tribe everything they have now with no restrictions. He added that if that happens, Florida will not get anything from the situation.

But Galvano sees the situation differently. He said that the first gaming compact that Gov. Crist negotiated permitted the tribe to adjust its profit sharing if additional games were allowed in Palm Beach County but negate the agreement if they were allowed elsewhere in Florida.


Wednesday, August 05 , 2009
Emma Green