TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – With little debate, the Florida Senate approved a massive 30-year gaming deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida on Tuesday.
House approval is expected Wednesday, and lawmakers appear ready to roll the dice even though the threat of lawsuits is looming large.READ MORE: Oxygen In High Demand For Hospitalized COVID Patients And That's Starting To Create A Strain
The Tribe has guaranteed the state $500 million a year for the next five years. Estimates in the Senate Tuesday were that Florida would receive between $20 and $30 billion over the 30-year compact.
The Senate debate focused not on big changes like new games, which the compact contains.
“Craps, roulette and sports betting,” said bill sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast.
Instead, the biggest debate was over an arbitrary prohibition of any new casino within 165 miles of the tribe’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.
The Fontainebleau and Trump’s Doral resort are at 15.2 miles away.
“And I think it’s specific and intended to inure to the benefit of one particular party,” said Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami.
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In the end, the governor got criticized for not getting a bigger share of the profits. But even that didn’t result in a no vote.
“Good deal or bad deal, it is the deal we have on the table, and I can’t in good conscious turn down the money,” said Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami.
St. Petersburg State Sen. Jeff Brandes was the only no vote.
“Here were are taking an entire segment of the economy and we’re basically saying the tribe has a monopoly,” the Republican said.
The gambling deal has brought out the biggest crowd here at the Florida Capitol since the beginning of the pandemic.
More than a hundred protestors were bused in by religious conservatives and No Casinos Inc.
Organizer John Sowinski calls the expansion unconstitutional.
“It’s voters, not policymakers in Tallahassee that have the power to expand gambling in our state,” he said.MORE NEWS: Fifth Straight Day Of Cancellations & Delays For Frustrated Spirit Airlines Passengers
And while the compact will likely win approval Wednesday, federal approval is also required. Then a host of lawsuits are all but certain.