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“I would be very surprised if it passed in a regular session in an election year,” said Republican Representative Steve Clouse, chairman of the House General Fund Budget Committee. “By the end of March, April 1, people are going to be anxious to get out of this.”

Robbie McGhee, vice-chairman of the Poarch Band Indian Tribal Council, said lawmakers would give voters the final decision as the measure is expected to be approved in a statewide vote. Albritton said his goal was to get the measure before voters in November.

“I think this is the perfect opportunity to say, ‘I’m going to empower people to make this decision,'” said McGhee.

Gambling legislation in the past has failed due to a mixture of opposition from conservative lawmakers and turf wars over who would get lucrative casino licenses. Owners of dog trails and other electronic bingo operations have argued that Poarch Brooks should not have a monopoly.

The bill passed by the Senate last year, in addition to allowing tribal-operated casinos, would have given existing dog tracks and electronic bingo operations, such as Greenetrack and VictoryLand dog tracks, a advantage to try to win the other casino licenses.

It’s unclear what this year’s bill would mean for these sites. Albritton said he expected the sites to initially have a provisional license to continue playing.

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