The decision would come down two months later, sending the governor back to the drawing board and requiring him to get legislative approval to do complete the deal.
Like any good gambler, Mardi Gras Gaming knew how to hedge its bets. It's top priority was to lower its 50 percent tax rate, imposed when the legislature implemented the 2005 slots amendment, and it wanted to use a revised gaming compact to get there. Knowing Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer was the governor's hand-picked director, it made sense to put him on the payroll.
The contract for two years: a $7,500 a month for Greer to provide "business development, business opportunities and the promotion of and efficient and effective delivery of its entertainment and hospitality services." Then, in an acknowledgement to Greer's food safety training background, noted that the contract "shall not include in Florida the provision of food safety training or responsible vendor training and related services." The contract also covered travel expenses. Download Greer Contract
Mardi Gras Gaming, along with its parent company, Hartman & Tyner, had already emerged as major players in Republican races in Florida. In the 2008 election cycle, they led the pack of parimutuel interests, giving almost $700,000 to candidates.
By 2010, the final gaming compact was signed but it excluded the lower tax rate. It took until July 2011 to get the lower tax rate, now at 35 percent.
The details emerged in a hearing officer's court order released last week in a lawsuit against the state by a Fort Myers real estate company, whose owners also represent Gulfstream Racetrack. Fort Myers Real Estate Holdings LLC wanted to obtain a quarter horse permit so it could operate a card room, and ultimately slot machines, in Florida City. The ruling effectively squelch's that application. Here's the order: Download Gambling order
Photo: Mardi Gras Gaming, Miami Herald Jim Varsallone