Legislature still split over slot machines - Sunday 12th of June 2005

More than a month after they adjourned without agreement on how to regulate slot machines in Broward County, the House and Senate are again searching for a compromise over what kind of machines local pari-mutuel venues can install.

Legislative leaders "understand and believe there should be an effort made to reach a consensus," Gov. Jeb Bush said on Friday.

If they do, legislative leaders or Bush could bring legislators into a special session.

"There is an effort going on to see if they can reach common ground," Bush said. "If there is an agreement ... that would be a possible time for a special session."

So far, the talks are limited to top legislative staff.

"We want to continue working on the issue," said Towson Fraser, a spokesman for House Speaker Allen Bense, adding that the Legislature "wants to be ready" especially in case the courts order lawmakers to address the issue.

Lee said the major issues that divide the chambers are the type of machines that would be allowed, the taxation rate, the hours of operation and the requirements for pari-mutuels to continue offering live racing and jai-alai games.

"Over the quiet days of the summer, we have plenty of time for our staff to get engaged on this," Lee said. "I wouldn't expect anything until after the summer ... but if an agreement can be reached, the speaker and I will call the special session."

Three lawsuits are already pending over the Legislature's inability to agree on a slots regulation bill during the regular session, which ended on May 6.

This week, Bush announced that the state would enter into gambling compact negotiations with the Seminole Tribe, which issued a formal request in late March. .

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