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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Voting along party lines, the Florida House approved a gambling package that would require the Seminole Tribe to pay the state $3 billion over seven years in exchange for being allowed to continue to have “exclusivity” over banked card games, such as blackjack.

The House proposal now heads back to the Senate, which last week approved a vastly different version that was friendly to the pari-mutuel industry.

The House’s 73-40 passage of its version sets up negotiations between the two chambers, as lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott try to hash out details of a new agreement, called a “compact,” with the tribe.

House Democrats objected to a component that would steer one-third of the revenue from a 20-year compact with the Seminoles to charter schools “that serve students from persistently failing schools,” an item not included in the Senate plan.

“The provision that the money, a third of the money — a billion dollars — goes to charter schools, is just not acceptable to the Democratic members,” argued Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura.

But Rep. Mike La Rosa, the House bill sponsor, said the money would help students who attend chronically failing schools. LaRosa said the bill establishes “a structure” that allows the House to negotiate with the Senate, which he hopes to convince that “gaming should be boxed up and put on the shelf.”

The Senate’s approach would allow most pari-mutuels to stop live racing while keeping more lucrative gambling activities, such as slot machines or cardrooms. The Senate plan would also allow pari-mutuels to add slots in eight counties where voters have approved them. The Seminoles maintain that neither proposal would get the requisite approval from federal officials, who must sign off on the compact.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.


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