Slot machines could be expanded to six Florida counties that already OK’d them in local referendums under a new measure pushed by Senate President-designate Joe Negron.
The Stuart Republican filed his proposal as an amendment to gambling legislation (SB 7072, SB 7074) set to be reviewed Wednesday by his chamber’s Regulated Industries Committee, chaired by state Sen. Rob Bradley. It also lowers the tax rate on slot machines to 25 percent from 35 percent.
That includes a proposed agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida renewing exclusive rights to blackjack at the tribe’s casinos in return for $3 billion over seven years paid into the state treasury.
The catch is that expanding slots in and of itself also infringes on the proposed Compact as it currently stands. But Negron said the added income in taxes on new slots will offset any lost revenue from the Seminoles.
He said he believes he has to votes needed for the amendment to pass the 12-member panel, which oversees gambling in the state.
“There are ongoing discussions about where we’re going to land and I want to work with Chairman Bradley,” Negron told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “I think everyone understood at the outset that that was the beginning point. I think there are other geographic factors that have to be considered … and the voters approved it. I don’t think government should stand in the way.”
He also was asked whether slots could be expanded beyond just the six counties that said yes to them. “That’s an item for discussion,” he said. “We may have some resolution on that.”
Negron’s plan is similar to a matter now before the Florida Supreme Court to review a lower-court decision that said several Florida dog and horse tracks can’t also have slot machines. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which runs the racetrack in Gretna, brought the case.
The question is whether slot machines are allowed outside South Florida if local voters in a particular area approve of them. That would include Brevard, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach and Washington counties.
“I support the Compact; I want the Compact to pass,” Negron said. “My amendment also has some retraction of the gaming footprint, which is important to some members of the committee.”
The meeting is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m.
Jim Rosica (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee.