Gambling agreement approved nearly unanimously in Florida Senate, moves to House next

Florida

A woman plays a slot machine at the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City, N.J. on July 2, 2020. The U.S. gambling industry was a big winner at the polls on Nov. 3, 2020, with three states authorizing sports betting and three others either authorizing or expanding casino gambling. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Senate approved the agreement drafted between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida nearly unanimously and across party lines on Tuesday, helping it move on to the next step in the House.

The agreement passed in the Senate 38-1. Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican who serves part of Pinellas County, was the lone dissenting vote in the chamber.

The vote came during a special session of the Florida Legislature that started Monday afternoon, reviewing the 75-page compact agreed upon by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Seminole Tribe Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. for legal approval. If the agreement passes the House next, it would essentially guarantee the 30-year partnership and generate billions of dollars of revenue in the state.

The agreement is expected to be approved by the House tomorrow, with similarly strong support across party lines.

Senate leadership was optimistic about the agreement and the ratification in the chamber.

“By comprehensively addressing issues raised for almost a decade, this historic legislation restores Florida’s relationship with the Seminole Tribe, offers new opportunities for Florida’s legacy pari-mutuel industry, and provides substantial new revenues for our state,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby in a statement. “After years of negotiations and the hard work of many people on both sides, I’m pleased to see this significant legislation pass the Senate today.”

Three general bills were passed during the session today including the approval, all aimed at supporting the agreement and its measures.

SB 2-A authorized and ratified the agreement, only taking effect when the agreement is officially implemented.

SB 4-A, Gaming Enforcement, passed on a narrower margin at 26 to 13. Once in effect, the law would allow the Office of Statewide Prosecution to investigate and prosecute crimes referred by the Florida Gaming Control Commission.

The Commission is created within the Office of the Attorney General through SB 4-A, and also creates the Division of Gaming Enforcement within the Commission, appropriating $2.1 million.

SB 8-A, Gaming, revises the requirements to apply to operate or conduct pari-mutuel wagering for a pari-mutuel facility and prohibits greyhound permitholders from conducting live racing. If the facilities have received slot machine licenses and remains eligible, some permitholders that do not hold live races can retain their permits as pari-mutuel facilities.

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