Florida, tribe near new gambling deal


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott is close to reaching a new gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

A person close to the negotiations says the Scott administration is reaching out to legislative leaders to discuss holding a May special session to consider the compact. The person requested anonymity because the person isn’t authorized to discuss the deal.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Don Gaetz confirmed that Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera met this week to discuss the proposed deal. But Katie Betta said that Gaetz was not told of any details.

“He told the Lt. Governor that he would be interested in learning more, if negotiations are finalized,” Betta said in an email. “He did not ask, nor was he informed of specific details, as the negotiations are ongoing.”

A Seminole spokesman said they wouldn’t comment.

Frank Collins, a spokesman for Scott, said, “There is no deal.”

If the governor asked legislators to consider a deal with the tribe in May it would come when he has the proposed $75 billion state budget on his desk. Scott has line-item veto power that gives him the ability to eliminate individual spending items being sought by legislators. Legislators are expected to approve a new budget between now and May 2.

The Seminoles and Florida reached a deal in 2010 to give the Seminole exclusive rights to have blackjack and other table games at three Broward County casinos and others in Immokalee and Tampa. Part of that deal expires in 2015.

That deal guaranteed more than $1 billion in revenue to the state.

Florida ranked fourth overall in gambling revenue among Indian casinos with $2.2 billion in 2012, behind California, Oklahoma and Washington. The figure is a 3 percent increase, the second straight year of growth after a decline in 2010.

Florida legislators earlier this year were considering a comprehensive gambling bill that could have resulted in competition for the tribe by allowing new resort casinos coming to South Florida. But House Speaker Will Weatherford said he wanted Scott to renegotiate the compact with the Tribe before proceeding any further. Weatherford also said he wanted the issue to be placed before voters.

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