Stadium News

The House is getting clever.

The Florida House of Representatives, which has consistently killed efforts to expand gambling in the state, suddenly resurrected a committee Monday for just one vote: to allow slot machines at 10 racetracks and jai-alai frontons, including four in Miami-Dade County.
The stated rationale for the change of mind: Tax revenue from gambling would help cut property taxes.

The other, less public, reason: a stadium for the Florida Marlins.

The deal would work like this: The House hates gambling but wants to give a $60 million subsidy to the Marlins to build a retractable-roof stadium. The Senate doesn't care for the Marlins stadium but has already voted to allow parimutuels throughout the state to put in slot machines.

So each chamber would hold its nose to pass a bill it dislikes to get something it badly wants.

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The House sponsor, Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican, said he would be ''appreciative'' if his push to bring the gambling bill to a vote provokes a Senate vote on the Marlins.

And Senate Republican Leader Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican, who last week vowed that the Marlins bill won't come to a vote in his chamber, on Monday gave a noncommittal ``we'll see.''

This idea could work, while I personally have no dog in the hunt when it comes to the gambling issue for the state.  If it helps the passage of the final piece of the puzzle for the stadium, I'm onboard.

Before anyone gets too excited, there is still a lot of resistance in the senate to coupling the gambling issue with a stadium tax break for the Marlins.  But this proposal could grow some legs.  Dr F, where the heck is he anyway, set the metric we need to go by: "I will believe it when I walk into the new stadium."

But this has a chance, unfortunately time expires on May 4.  In other words, the clock is seriously ticking.

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