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The Seminole Indians won senate approval on Thursday to expand tribal casino gambling with a 29-9 vote. The measure is estimated to earn the state of Florida $1.3 million in the first five years. Plus an estimated increase in later years.
The bill still needs House approval.
Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminoles have worked together to agree for the third time on this compact. The previous three attempts were denied.
The first time the compact was rejected was by the Florida Supreme Court. This was due to the governor trying to pass it without approval from the Legislature. The second time it was rejected by a House committee because the expansion was more than wanted by lawmakers. This time however, the latest compact has previously been passed by the same panel.
Exclusive rights to blackjack and other table games will be given to three Broward County casinos and two casinos in Tampa and Imokalee. Las Vegas style slot machines will also continue operating in all seven tribal casinos.
Approval is still needed by the U.S. Interior Department. The department oversees Indian affairs.
In 2007, the tribe expanded gaming at the Florida casinos. This was after the first agreement with Crist. An escrow account has been holding money payable to the state. It is estimated it will be worth $288 million by the end of June. The money was to be allocated to education. The new compact allows the state to choose where the funds will go without restriction. Financial help will also be given by the new bill to the state's betting industries. This includes horse and dog tracks as well as jai alai frontons.
Taxes will be lowered from 50 percent to 30 percent for facilities not in the Miami-Dade and Broward counties. They will also be permitted to add bingo-style and video-lottery machines. Statewide changes include longer operating hours and higher limits for card rooms.
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