Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stakes High in Gaming, Lawmaking; Donations Double as Reform Is Discussed in Legislature

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stakes High in Gaming, Lawmaking; Donations Double as Reform Is Discussed in Legislature

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

TALLAHASSEE | With lawmakers mulling several options to overhaul Florida's gaming system, campaign contributions from casinos, dog tracks, gaming opponents, and Indian tribes have flooded the political process.

During the first 11 months of the 2014 election cycle, gaming interests have given $2.8 million to candidates and political committees. That doubles the $1.4 million the industry had given at this point through the 2012 election cycle, according to campaign finance records.

An election cycle includes two years. For instance, the 2012 cycle includes contributions given in 2011 through election day.

Though no action is guaranteed, legislative committees are planning to consider some type of gaming reform during this spring's session. The Legislature has paid $400,000 for a three-part gaming study, and a Senate panel is conducting public hearings across the state to get input.

The biggest single gaming-related donor so far is the Seminole Tribe of Florida, at $919,994, with 81 percent of that to the Republican Party of Florida or a fundraising committee supporting Gov. Rick Scott.

Through this point during the 2012 cycle, the tribe had given $11,730. That number increased to $1 million by Election Day.

The Legislature may consider renegotiating the tribe's 20-year compact as part of its overall gaming reforms. The portion of the compact that covers "banked card" games like blackjack and baccarat is set to expire in 2015. Under the compact, the tribe can operate those games at three of its seven casinos.

When asked about its increased campaign cash, a spokesman said, "the tribe doesn't comment on political strategy."

Another aspect being considered by lawmakers is the approval of Las Vegas-style casinos often referred to as "destination resorts." In 2012, lawmakers killed a proposal to approve the mega-casinos in South Florida, but proponents are back.

Bayfront 2011 Development, a group associated with the Malaysian gaming giant Genting Group, has given $652,500 so far this election cycle. …

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