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Florida lawmakers gamble on sports betting during special session

Sports Gambling-Florida
FILE- In this Jan. 19, 2021, file pot, The Guitar Hotel at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood is illuminated at night in Hollywood, Fla. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reached an agreement with the state’s Seminole Tribe on Friday, April 23, 2021, that would greatly expand gambling in the state, including the introduction of legalized sports wagering. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

State lawmakers are taking up a gambling deal during a special session which starts Monday. The deal was signed by Governor DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe legalizing sports betting at the end of April. Republican state Representative Chip LaMarca, of Lighthouse Point, says it’s time for Florida to cash in on the billions. LaMarca says there is support for the measure on both sides of the aisle.

The fate of the new 30-year compact is uncertain because of opposition from some business groups and legislative conservatives who object to expanding gambling on moral grounds and because of concerns over increased crime.

The deal would give the state at least $2.5 billion over the first five years and at least $6 billion from the Tribe by 2030. State officials say the pact would create 2,200 new jobs.

If the Legislature ratifies the agreement reached last month by the Tribe and Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Seminoles would be allowed to offer sports gambling at their casinos in South Florida and near Tampa.

The tribe will also be allowed to introduce craps and roulette at its seven casinos, including the popular Hard Rock near Fort Lauderdale. And it would allow the tribe to add three additional facilities within its Hollywood Reservation.

The gaming industry has been a boon for the Seminoles. It has used its profits to pays its 4,100 members more than $100,000 annually and owns the Hard Rock brand worldwide.

The Seminoles, invoking their sovereignty as a tribal nation, began their gambling operations with a high-stakes bingo parlor in 1979 and have been expanding ever since, adding slot machines, poker, blackjack and other card games.

Miami billionaire Norman Braman has vowed to challenge the compact in court if it is approved by the Legislature, arguing that elements of the compact would violate a 2018 initiative that put restrictions on the expansion of casino-style gambling.

It the compact passes, it could face legal challenges because it would still need federal approval.