Gambling bill a long shot in Florida legislative session’s final days

  • News Service of Florida
  • News Service of Florida
7:07 p.m Wednesday, March 7, 2018 Politics
Passage of a major gambling bill remains a long shot in the final days of Florida’s 2018 legislative session.

The Florida Senate on Wednesday voted 22-10 to approve a measure that seeks to expand a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, while also allowing slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities in counties where voters have approved referendums.

The Senate also moved to request the House concur with the Senate proposal and, if the House refuses, to appoint a conference committee to formally negotiate on the issue. Passage of a major gambling bill remains a long shot in the final days of the annual legislative session.

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Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, said the House and Senate proposals both seek $3 billion from the Seminoles over the first seven years of a gambling agreement known as a compact. The Senate proposes a compact of 22 years, two more than in the House version. The Senate measure includes numerous provisions, including allowing tribal casinos to offer craps and roulette, making clear that fantasy sports are not gambling under Florida law and lowering slot-machine tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent.

The House proposal (HB 7067) would allow the tribe to conduct banked-card games, such as blackjack, at five of its seven facilities, but it doesn’t include such things as allowing slot machines at referendum counties.

Direct primary medical care nears approval

The Florida Legislature is poised to pass a bill that would create the “statutory footing” for direct primary-care agreements among physicians, patients and employers.

Under direct primary-care agreements, patients pay monthly fees to doctors or other providers for defined primary-care services. After paying the fees, patients can utilize all services under the agreements at no extra charge. The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Thonotosassa Republican Tom Lee, would amend the state insurance code to make clear that written, direct primary-care agreements do not violate insurance regulations.

The House passed the bill, a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, by a 97-10 vote, and the Senate on Wednesday took up the House version of the bill (HB 37) and positioned it for a vote as soon as Thursday.

Lee said the bill would give freedom to physicians and their staff members from insurance companies and filing forms that can divert up to 35 percent of their time. The small-business group National Federation of Independent Business Florida has pushed the proposal for several years.