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Casino bill in serious trouble on eve of crucial vote

A bill that could bring three mega resort casinos to South Florida appeared doomed in the House Thursday, as backers struggled to cobble together a minimum eight-vote majority on the committee that will consider the controversial legislation on Friday.

If the bill fails to get out of the committee, it “is dead,’’ said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, the bill’s House sponsor in the House, leaving casino supporters to have to wait until next year to get it approved by the Legislature.

As lawmakers met in an eight-hour floor session on Thursday, Fresen spent the time button-holing members of the Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee, which will hear the bill for the first time Friday.

“I actually don’t think the policy of this is as huge as the politics of it,” Fresen said. “Do the politics outweigh the policy? Maybe. I’ll know what’s going to happen on Friday.”

As proponents counted the votes Thursday, the anxiety among lawmakers was palpable. Lobbyists on both sides kept a constant count, comparing notes after they met with committee members, many of whom refused to publicly commit. Throughout the day the count swung from 8 to 7 in favor of the bill, to 8 to 7 against it. Story here.