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Florida governor hopes ‘we can get something done’ on gambling

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – House and Senate leaders appear unable to reach agreement on a sweeping gambling deal, but Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t thrown in the towel.

For the second week in a row, the House Gaming Control Subcommittee canceled a scheduled Friday meeting, where any deal between the two chambers could have been revealed.

Discussions between legislative leaders have been ongoing, but the Seminole Tribe of Florida -- a key player in any gambling deal -- has not been part of the talks.

“I have not met with them yet. But I would like to have a resolution, and so I anticipate meeting with them in the not-too-distant future,” DeSantis told reporters Thursday. “I hope we can get something done. I think it would be good, if we can. But that is definitely on the agenda on the not-too-distant future.”

Lawmakers have tried futilely to reach an accord with the Seminole Tribe, which last year stopped about $330 million in annual payments to the state. The tribe ceased a revenue-sharing agreement after a judge ruled that controversial “designated player” card games at pari-mutuel facilities violated a 2010 deal that gave the Seminoles exclusive rights to operate banked card games at most of its facilities.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who will take over as Senate president in November, reached a deal with the Seminoles in the waning days of the 2019 legislative session. But DeSantis, who took office in January 2019, said he didn’t have enough time to vet the proposal before the session ended.

He said Thursday that he focused during his first session last year on “the things that I campaigned on,” which did not include a deal with the Seminoles.

“I got something very late, and there was just no way I was going to sign the state up for a 30-year agreement, 48 hours into it. So, I’ve had a chance to really understand what the state should benefit from it. Obviously, the tribe makes a killing here (at casinos) in the state of Florida,” DeSantis told reporters, pointing out that he met last year with pari-mutuel operators “because they actually are the Florida businesses.”