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Gambling talks in limbo after Senate reverses course

Bunkley urges House to ‘hang tough’


TALLAHASSEE (FBW) – After the Florida House of Representatives made major concessions in the last two days of negotiations with the Senate seeking to reach a compromise on gambling legislation, the Senate abruptly reversed course today, moving significantly closer to its original position – and possibly ending the negotiations.

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Rep. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), the House negotiator, obviously frustrated with the Senate’s “offer” – it’s fourth of the negotiations, pointedly responded: “I’ll look at your offer and will let you know if it’s necessary to meet further.”

Sen. J.D. Alexander (R-Winter Haven), who has take over negotiations for the Senate in recent days, responded, “Well, that didn’t go real well.”

The exchange took place with Gov. Charlie Crist and members of the Seminole Indian Tribe sitting on the front room of the Capitol meeting room looking on. Crist has attended at least three public meetings of the gambling conference committee in recent days, seeking to pressure lawmakers into reaching an agreement.

Crist’s 2007 “compact” with the Seminoles was voided by the Florida Supreme Court last year, putting the matter before the Legislature.

According to several news accounts, Crist has suggested he may veto unrelated legislation adopted this session if legislators cannot come to a gambling agreement before the end of this week, the deadline for adjournment of the extended session of the Legislature.

Alexander acknowledged the Senate’s offer “may be receding a bit” from prior proposals, but said discussions with the Seminoles caused him to conclude “if we want to be able to make real payments, we have to give them an opportunity to generate the dollars.”

As a result, the Senate offered to allow the tribe to have full-scale casino games – like blackjack and bacarrat – at all its facilities, having previously offered only blackjack at three of the tribe’s casinos.

The gambling negotiations also includes legislation to enhance pari-mutuel gambling facilities across the state, with the chambers divided on various aspects of those matters.

Florida Baptist Convention legislative consultant Bill Bunkley said the House should  “realize it is fruitless to conduct any meaningful negotiation with the governor or the Senate on limiting gambling expansion” and the House should “dig in” with a “no gambling expansion position.”

Bunkley told Florida Baptist Witness, “The Senate is trying to roll” the House – trying to force the chamber to give-in.

“Hang tough House leadership – just say, ‘no,’” he insisted.