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Senate gamble bill draws line in the sand on compact

A leadership-pushed proposal that was the focus of a 30-minute workshop in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee offers up new limits on how far the state will compromise with the Seminole Tribe in its gambling compact -- and opens the door to more gambling if the tribe doesn't agree.

The measure, which gives the governor 60 days to negotiate a compact, ties the governor's hands to negotiate only the legislation that is approved by lawmakers. It also orders the attorney general to request that U.S. attorneys take criminal action to shut down the tribe's casino games until a compact is signed.

If a compact is not signed and ratified by the Legislature, the proposal would also expand gambling by allowing all dog tracks and horse tracks around the state to offer electronic slot machines and black-jack and other casino style games and even authorize roulette and craps casino games if approved by voters in each county .

"Let's get on a concept, protect the public, and lets get some revenue with the state,'' said Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole. "If we're going to have a compact, the governor is going to have 60 days to get with the Indians and move forward. We've fiddled around with it for three years."

It's not likely to be a proposal that gets very far. The tribe has said it will not sign any agreement, however, that gives slot machines -- even electronic slot machines -- to its competitors outside of Miami-Dade and Broward. And the House, which has been conducting negotiations with the tribe for the last three weeks, is not likely to accept the expanded gaming provisions.

The move is an bit of a shift for the Senate, which has always been more amenable to resolving the impasse over the gambling compact than the House. This year, the House leadership appears downright open to passing legislation to enable a compact with the tribe, while the Senate now stands out as the more stubborn one. 

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