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Legislative leaders, tribe officials discuss gambling

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano and incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva met Thursday with leaders of the Seminole Tribe of Florida as lawmakers attempt to craft a gambling proposal, Galvano told The News Service of Florida.

Galvano, who has long played a key role in gambling legislation, said he and Oliva met with Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming; Jim Shore, the tribe’s general counsel; and Marcellus Osceola Jr., the tribal council chairman.

Galvano said “lines of communication were reopened,” as lawmakers look to put together a gambling plan before voters decide in November whether to approve a constitutional amendment that would make it harder to expand gambling.

The proposed constitutional amendment, if approved, would leave future decisions about gambling expansion up to voters, taking away decision-making power from the Legislature.

“My takeaway is that the tribe continues to want to be a partner with the state of Florida and wants to work with us to see if we can reach a meaningful resolution this session,” Galvano said.

The Seminoles play a key role because of an agreement, known as a compact, that gives tribal casinos exclusive rights to offer certain games in exchange for payments to the state.

Part of the agreement dealing with blackjack and other “banked” card games expired in 2015 and was the subject of a federal lawsuit that resulted in a settlement between Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminoles.

The House and Senate have introduced widely different gambling bills during the ongoing legislative session, though any agreement likely would be reached by leaders after behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, are slated to take over as Senate president and House speaker after the November elections.