Florida Senate approves slot machine bill, sends to House - Thursday 12th of May 2005

The state Senate passed a bill to regulate Broward County slot machines in the final hours of the legislative session Friday, after approving a higher tax rate that lawmakers said would raise about $450 million for schools.The 28-10 vote sent the bill to the House, where its future was uncertain.

The Senate boosted its proposed tax rate to a range of 40 percent to 50 percent, depending on the level of revenue. That brought the bill closer to the House version, which had a 55 percent tax rate.But the House plan would also limit the four Broward pari-mutuels to bingo-based gambling machines.

The Senate did not conform to that position, and kept its plan to allow Las Vegas-style slot machines at the jai alai fronton and three tracks.Earlier Friday, lobbyists for the pari-mutuel industry said they thought negotiations between the two chambers had narrowed the gap between the two positions but that lawmakers ran out of time. Several unrelated issues, ranging from litigation policy to growth management to Medicaid changes, instead took center-stage.

Floridians approved a ballot measure in November that changed the state constitution to let Broward and Miami-Dade counties allow slot machines at seven tracks and jai-alai frontons.The pari-mutuel industry sold the measure by promising any tax revenue be spent on schools across the state. Miami-Dade County rejected slots and Broward County approved them.Regulation of slots is complicated by federal law, which gives Indian tribes the right to negotiate for any kind of gambling allowed elsewhere in a state. Both the Seminole and the Miccosukee tribes have notified Gov. Jeb Bush that they want to start negotiations _ and they believe the November vote gives them the right to Las Vegas-style slot machines.

Bush wants to limit the expansion of gambling.The tribes have several casinos around the state that now have bingo-based gambling machines.

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