Florida Gaming Laws an Ever-Changing Complex Rubix Cube

Posted on: April 10, 2015, 02:29h. 

Last updated on: April 10, 2015, 02:31h.

Florida gambling bills Seminole compact
One Florida gaming proposal would allow greyhound tracks to offer slots or poker, even if they stop running dog races. (Image: Orlando Sentinel)

A lot of things stay the same in Florida: humidity, an endless influx of seniors, and expensive Palm Beach real estate.

Gaming laws in the Sunshine State, however, do not fall into that category, and have become a never-ending invasion of new amendments and challenges to existing laws.

Florida gambling laws are going to change, sooner or later.

There’s just too much on the table for the status quo to be maintained: the Seminole Tribe’s compact is up for renewal, there’s the ongoing question over whether resort-style casinos should be allowed in the state, and the possibility of giving more gambling rights to horse and dog racing tracks.

A proposal that would have originally served to extend parts of the current compact with the Seminoles for another year transformed into a larger, more complex piece of legislation on Wednesday, as amendments turned it into a broad gaming bill that could change many aspects of Florida’s gaming policy.

The bill was originally proposed by Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), but by the time it had been amended and brought to a vote, Bradley himself voted against it.

Bill Would Extend Seminole Compact

Originally, Bradley’s bill (SB 7088) would simply have extended the five-year agreement between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida for another year.

That agreement is set to run out on July 1, and Bradley had hoped that such a measure could give the state more time to negotiate with the tribe. The move would have guaranteed that the Seminoles would still have exclusive rights to operate blackjack and other banked card games in the state for another year.

But over the course of a two-hour meeting, Bradley’s committee took that simple bill and loaded it with other measures related to Florida’s gambling landscape. Other state senators added amendments to the bill that would allow greyhound tracks to offer other gambling options, like poker and slot machines, even if they stopped holding races, for instance.

After that was proposed, another Senator suggested letting jai-alai frontons and horse racing tracks to do the same.

“This is what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Senator Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens). “If we’re doing it for one, we should do it for all.”

That amendment passed the committee by a 7-5 vote. Another approved amendment would require that 10 percent of slot revenues at new racetrack casinos, known as “racinos,” would be used to subsidize horse racing purses at Tampa Bay Downs.

Final Bill Could Look Very Different from Committee Proposal

In the end, the overall bill (amendments included) passed through the committee by a 7-5 vote.

But Bradley himself was among the five Senators who voted against the measure, which he intended to be a very limited piece of legislation. Still, he noted that even the version of the bill that did pass through his committee would not necessarily be something the full Senate might eventually approve this session.

“I would suspect that if we have a gaming bill come out of the Senate that it will look probably a bit different than what you saw come out of this committee today,” Bradley said. “What you see is a few elements that continue to be in play.”

At the same time, a proposal by State House Majority Leader Dana Young (R-Hillsborough County) to allow two resort casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade counties was scaled back, though the resorts are expected to be added back in via an amendment that would require voters or county commissions in those counties to approve adding those resorts.

Young’s bill would also cancel dormant parimutuel permits and stop any new parimutuel permits from being issued in the state.