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Bradley: Gambling bills face long odds as compact discussions are now underway

Senate Regulated Industry Committee Chairman Sen. Rob Bradley said Wednesday that discussions with the Seminole Tribe and the Senate are underway over the resolution of the portion of the gaming compact with the state.

But "there is such a large distance between the two parties” that he expects it “will be very difficult to come to a meeting of the minds” before the session ends on May 1. The casualty, he said, is likely to be passage of any gaming bill this session. 

“The Senate’s position has been consistent, we think when it comes to gaming you deal with the compact first and then deal with these other issues,'' he told the Herald/Times. "We are not going to recommend to our members a deal that doesn’t make sense for the people of the State of Florida.

"Until we arrive at a situation with our negotiations with the Tribe, where we have such a deal, then we’re not going to move forward."

That could mean that any attempt by the House to schedule passage of its sweeping gaming bill, HB 1233, could be in trouble. Or it could mean that the chilled relations between the chambers over the budget and health care impasse are also interfering with progress on other priority bills. In other words, is it posturing? 

House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, has signaled the importance of the gaming bill to her this session, first by drafting a massive rewrite of the state's gaming laws that included widespread expansion of gambling options throughout the state.

Facing resistance from conservatives in the House, Young scaled down the bill and on Tuesday the House Finance and Tax Committee voted 10-8 to pass a plan to open the door to slot machines in Palm Beach and Lee counties, but only if approved by legislators, the governor and the Seminole Tribe.

Also included in the plan are two issues important to Young, the so-called "decoupling" of dog racing that makes racing greyhounds optional at tracks that operate poker rooms or slots casinos and requires race tracks to report all dog injuries to the state. 

Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said that until the compact is resolved, the Senate is not ready to take up that bill.  

“The only issue we are comfortable peeling off would be the injury reporting issue – the bill that we passed on the first day,’’ he said, referring to the dog injury reporting bill named after former Senate President Don Gaetz's wife, Victoria Gaetz.

“As far as those other gaming issues – whether it be decoupling, the Palm Beach and Lee County slots, the Senate’s position is we deal with the compact first and then we have a comprehensive package,'' Bradley.