Gambling is big business in Florida, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. But in a state with many competing interests and a complex legal framework for gaming, there are plenty of disagreements about just how gambling should work in the Sunshine State. That’s why Florida is likely to revisit their gambling laws before the end of the year, in an effort to change some regulations while clarifying others.
Changing Legislation Reflects Several Factors
There are several factors that are contributing to the interest in changing the state’s gambling regulations. Additional portions of a study on gambling are due to be released to the Florida Legislature on October 1, while the state’s Senate has said they will hold public hearings about gambling in October and November. State regulators have said they want to draw up new rules because some existing regulations are unclear. In addition, a compact with the Seminole Indians – which allows the tribe to offer casino games – is set to expire in 2015, which could also have a serious impact on gambling in Florida.
“This go-round, like last go-round, will include all the interest-holders or stakeholders,” said State Senator Bill Galvano, a member of the Senate Gaming Committee. “You have the 28 pari-mutuels…you have the new interests of the resort destination entities. And this is an industry the participants, in my experience, seem to care more about what the other person doesn’t get than what they can get on their own. That makes it a very difficult group to manage and a difficult backdrop to create policy against.”
Political concerns have also led many of the players in the state gaming industry to want action now on gambling laws, rather than later. The 2015 legislation session will see new leadership in the state legislature that could potentially be anti-gambling, including new Senate President Andy Gardiner, whose district is the home of Disney – a corporation that is known as a strong gambling foe.
Operators Want to Give Input
Already, requests have started to come in from various operators who want chances to affect existing state laws. For instance, the pari-mutuel operators want to be able to offer blackjack and other card games while also lowering the taxes on their operations. Meanwhile, major casino developers from outside of Florida want the state to allow the building of at least one Las Vegas-style resort somewhere in the state. That likely wouldn’t sit well with the Seminole Tribe, which would like to upgrade their Hard Rock Casino in Tampa Bay.
Others are pushing to end the expansion of gambling in the state altogether. These efforts have been backed by much of the tourism and hospitality industries, which may see casinos as a threat to more traditional tourism options.
These are just a few of the issues on the table, and many of them are intertwined. The Seminole compact could be the lynchpin in the entire debate, as the tribe might be able to trade some exclusive rights for other incentives, which could give more options to other operators in Florida.
Efforts to simplify and clarify gambling laws and regulations are also likely to be a hot topic in the debate. There are many outstanding lawsuits regarding permits for pari-mutuel operations, many of which could be resolved by clarifying existing laws. Florida has also had recent issues with “sweepstakes” cafes, which could be more definitively outlawed if regulations are rewritten.