Florida lawmakers are beginning to make headway when it comes to finding a middle ground between the House and Senate gambling plans.
During the third gambling conference between House and Senate members Representative Jose Diaz presented the House offer, which includes places where house members want to hold steady, and other places where they’re willing to budge.
“For those reviewing it in the Senate it might look like little steps because our bills were so far apart to begin with. But I will tell you that each and every one of these involved a meaningful conversation with my colleagues and other members of the House. We feel that this is a position where we can come toward the Senate position on a lot of things, retain the House position on a lot of things and hopefully have a bill that can actually pass the House and hopefully pass the Senate,” Diaz says.
It’s an offer Senator Bill Galvano, who is overseeing his chamber’s piece of the negotiation, calls “substantial.”
“It tells me that we’re serious about getting something done and I appreciate that you came in here ready to get the ball moving down the field,” Galvano says.
One place where Diaz says he’s carved out some wiggle room in on the state’s gambling agreement, or compact, with the Seminole tribe. Diaz told reporters following the Wednesday morning conference the House is willing to let the tribe offer more types of games in its casinos.
“Yes. It would be craps and roulette at the Seminole facilities—something that they’ve asked for in exchange for a higher number on the percentage that they pay the state.”
And Galvano says that move will likely help to get the tribe on board. Once the House and Senate work out a gambling deal, the Seminole Tribe will need to sign off on any changes to its gambling agreement with the state. Another big issue in the House offer provides some give on decoupling. Diaz says the House would let most dog and horse tracks decouple, as long as their communities approve it through a referendum.
“That was just a suggestion by a few members of the House that I have been talking to. They strongly felt that the coupling had happened through referendum and decoupling should also happen through referendum,” Diaz says.
Decoupling is the idea of allowing pari-mutuels to continue operating games such as Poker without requiring them to hold a certain number of live races. Discussions between both chambers are expected to continue. Leaders from both the House and Senate say they’re happy with the direction talks are taking so far.