SENATE COMMITTEE PROPOSES ELEMENTS OF A GAMBLING OVERHAUL IN FLORIDA via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald
February 4, 2014
The Florida Senate is in the midst of drafting a sweeping overhaul of the state's gambling legislation and, judging by the committee's checklist, it will include a grab bag of goodies for many seeking to restructure, and expand, gambling in Florida. Whether any of it will pass this election year, is another story.
"I'm not sure when we cross the finish line," said Sen. Garrett Richter, chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee on Monday. He said the bill to be released Feb. 10 will be at least 300 pages long and the Senate's effort is "a significant endeavor."
Among the likely components in the bill:
* Allow for expansion of gambling, including a Destination Resorts casino in Miami-Dade or Broward County, only after a statewide referendum vote is approved. The destination resort investors may also be required to generate a minimum share of the revenue from out-of-state gamblers.
* Revise the state's hole-ridden regulation of gaming by creating a new state "Gaming Control" department that is regulated by either a secretary or a multi-member commission.
* Eliminate or reduce the requirement that horse and dog tracks operate live racing in order to run poker games and slot machines. This concept known as "decoupling" has the support of most dog track owners in Florida but is a concept that divides the horse community.
* Allow parimutuels in other parts of the state, such as Palm Beach and Tampa, to operate slot machines if given approval by local voters.
* Remove requirements on video slot machines run by arcades such as: removing the requirement that there are 50 or more machines in a facility, removing the requirement that machines be coin operated; raise the ability to collect winnings in increments of 75 cents per game.
Richter on Monday endorsed a Las Vegas-style gambling casino in Miami and indicated that the bill the Senate proposes next week will offer up the expanded games but not the rest of the state.
"There's not a chance that this legislature will consider a bill that will provide for unlimited casinos statewide," said Richter. But, he added, "I happen to think that a destination resort in Miami would be a good thing for the state of Florida. I think it will attract new revenue dollars."
Richter told the committee that he is also open to building a casino resort in Broward and that any requirement to ask voters to approve of any new games would apply only "after this legislature acts." In other words, Richter believes this Legislature should expand gambling and only changes that occur after this year would voters be asked to approve. The proposed constitutional amendment would be used to "approve anything after this legislative session, not as a result of this legislative session," he said.
MEANWHILE ... NO CASINOS LAUNCHES PARODY WEBSITE ON FLORIDA GAMBLING EXPANSION
No Casinos is betting on parody to get people to take notice of the campaign to stop Florida gambling expansion.
The Orlando-based anti-gambling advocates are launching a new website lampooning the state's push for more casinos across the state.
Beginning Monday, www.LessForFla.com pokes fun at the language and tactics of "gaming" interests, by parodying the gambling industry's own website, www.bestforfla.com, used to garner support in Tallahassee for building "destination resorts."
For example, the group claims that industry representatives want legislators to take political risks that the industry itself seems unwilling to take, especially by referring to gambling as "gaming" and "integrated resorts" - anything but the word "casino."
"It's only a matter of time before they start calling them 'integrated destination resorts,'" according to today's No Casinos press release.
No Casinos also points out that the gambling industry's own website, has no mention of casinos or gambling. There are, however, "lots pictures of beaches, restaurants and other attractive things" that are already in Florida.