The Florida legislative session begins March 5 and Senate President Bill Galvano isn’t wasting any time in pushing for a gambling expansion bill to be ready.
Galvano instructed members of the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee to have a draft proposal prepared by the end of this month. Though the specifics of the bill have yet to be released, Galvano did tell The News Service of Florida that he prioritizes sports betting regulation and a new compact with the Seminole Tribe.
The 52-year-old Sunshine State senator was prompted into action by a Florida economist who warned him that there are no guarantees as to how much gambling revenue the state will realize without having a deal with the native Americans in place. The current compact will expire in three months. And with the repeal of the sports betting ban by the US Supreme Court last May, this seems an opportune time to tackle both issues.
Revenue Not Realized
Galvano cited the revenue already being lost by the state to sports betting, insisting that Florida has its share of citizens who wager on sports without any current regulations. He mentioned the need to be
collecting and sharing revenues from that activity, according to Florida Politics.
That sharing would likely include the Florida horse racing industry and card rooms. Dog tracks, which have been a staple of Florida gambling for years, will be phased out by 2020 after Sunshine State voters had their say last November.
Those same voters want to remain in control over the gambling offerings permitted in Florida as they also gave their approval of a constitutional “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment requiring citizens to make determinations regarding casino and gaming expansion. That restricts the powers of lawmakers to a certain degree.
The president of Voters in Charge, John Sowinski, was adamant that sports betting is included in the gambling offerings that Florida citizens get to decide. Which likely means that any sports betting regulations that the Florida legislature might pass would face a legal challenge in a court of law.
New Compact Needed
Then there’s also the matter of the Seminole Tribe, who claim to have exclusive rights to the likes of sports betting and fantasy sports. That’s why Galvano wants to
stabilize and present new terms or modified terms to the existing (Seminole) compact.
Galvano was a member of the Florida House when the original compact with the Seminoles was put in place in 2010. He was instrumental in getting the deal done – and is also the ex-president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States – which is a big reason why some view him as the man for the job in 2019 as well.
The Bradenton Republican is on record as saying that a workable course of action may be to authorize sports betting and to tie that in with a statewide referendum so that voters can be heard. Galvano theorizes that that would nullify any potential lawsuits.
But perhaps the first order of business is a new compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida who are projected to provide the state with about $380 million in revenue this fiscal year. The Seminoles are constructing a new hotel and entertainment complex that’s said to cost $1.5 billion and feature a guitar-shaped hotel tower at the Hollywood, Florida Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.