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Galvano: Sign compact now, talk about Las Vegas casinos later

Florida won't be entertaining bids from the Las Vegas Sands to build a resort-style casino anytime soon, the chairman of the House gambling committee said Thursday.

But lawmakers need to consider options to expand gambling, he said -- after the state reaches an agreement with the Seminole Tribe.

``The time is coming for Florida to step back and catch its breath and figure out what direction it's going to go,'' said Rep. Bill Galvano, after the House Committee on the Seminole Indian Compact Review heard a presentation from the Las Vegas gambling giant. ``We cannot continue to function as a piecemeal state where we do an expansion here or a tweak there.''

The Legislature's first priority is to resolve the impasse over the Seminole gaming compact, he said. Current negotiations could result in a shorter agreement than originally considered, allowing the state to collect the ``dollars that are available to us right away.''

Legislative economist Amy Baker told the committee that by year's end, the state will have set aside $287 million in escrow from revenue-sharing for the tribe's operation of slot machines and card games at its seven casinos -- even without a validated agreement with the state.

Galvano acknowledged that lawmakers are considering entering into a three to five-year agreement with the tribe that would allow them to accept the money, and then taking a broader look at state gambling policy, including the possibility of opening the state to resort-style casinos that could bring in more revenue than the compact alone.Read story here.