Florida Senate president Bill Galvano is planning to introduce a sports betting bill during the upcoming state legislative session that commences next month.
Florida’s 2019 legislative session is set to begin March 5, and Galvano said Friday in an interview with Florida Politics it is his intention to not only push forward a bill that would legalize sports betting but also one that would encompass other aspects of the gambling industry including such things as pari-mutuels to hours of operation to which games casinos can have on its floors.
Galvano said last month he directed a Senate committee to review legalizing sports betting within the state and hoped to have a bill written by the end of February, which the Legislature could then further alter.
Legalized sports betting has been a hot-button topic in Florida, and strongly opposed by both Disney and the Seminole Indian tribe, two of the state’s biggest companies. Last year, the two entities combined to contribute in excess of $36 million to a lobbyist group designed to thwart successful passing of any legislation.
Disney’s primary objections against the expansion of gambling centered on wanting to protect the family-friendly nature of its theme parks in the Orlando area, while the Seminole tribe saw sports betting as competition to the casinos they own and operate in South Florida.
Florida voters passed legislation last November that further complicates the legalization of sports betting approving a constitutional amendment coined the “Voter Control of Gambling.”
The amendment mandates Florida residents vote on any gambling bill that the Legislature approves before said bill goes into effect.
The upcoming legislative session will also see Florida lawmakers attempt to “stabilize and present new terms or modified terms” of a current deal the state has with the Seminole tribe, Galvano said, according to Florida Politics.
The concord calls for the state to receive a guaranteed portion of the gaming revenue the Seminole tribe’s casinos collect in exchange for the tribe retaining exclusivity over the operation of blackjack within the state.
The seven-year deal was originally agreed upon in 2010 and the two parties agreed on an extension that continued the monthly payments with the Seminole Tribe stating it was acting in “good faith.” The current deal expires in May.
Galvano said Friday the state and the Seminole tribe will need to come to a new agreement that benefits both parties, one that continues to bring in revues similar that are projected at $3 billion over a seven-year period.
The Seminole tribe has paid the state more than $200 million yearly under the current deal that concludes next month, according to Florida Politics.
Galvano, formerly president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, was involved in negotiations with the Seminole tribe when the current agreement was crafted in 2010. He is beginning his first term as Florida Senate president.