Florida Gambling Bill Vote Delayed Despite Debates

The Florida gambling bill, formally known as HB 1233, which was proposed by State Rep. Dana Young, had its first hearing at a workshop on Thursday. The House Regulatory Affairs Committee reviewed the 316-page document but members did not specify when and whether it will be voted.

It seems, however, that certain progress was made in another gambling-related debate – the renewal of the gambling compact between the Seminole Tribe and Florida, as the current one is due to expire in July.

Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), who is in charge of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, shared with local media that there have been detailed discussions with tribal officials and they are likely to continue. At present, the gambling venues owned by the Seminoles are the only ones to offer blackjack and other table games on the territory of Florida. Under this exclusive agreement, the tribe is supposed to annually pay to the state a substantial portion of the revenue generated out of gambling operations.

As for State Rep. Young’s proposed legislation, it was discussed by House Regulatory Affairs Committee members for more than four hours, but they pointed out that the bill will not be advanced or at least not for the next two weeks. In other words, the proposal has only the final two weeks of the 60-day legislative session to be further reviewed and voted on.

State Rep. Young commented on this turn of events, saying that her bill is clearly a big one and traditionally, a gambling bill of this scale is not considered before the last several days of sessions.

Generally speaking, HB 1233 contains provisions about almost all types of gambling activities available on the territory of Florida. State Rep. Young proposes the expansion of some of those and the contraction of others.

For instance, the legislation suggests for dog racing not to be offered any longer, the establishment of two Las Vegas-styled casinos in Southern Florida, the restriction of any further expansion of the state’s gambling industry, a 10% tax reduction for pari-mutuel operators. Furthermore, State Rep. Young calls for the establishment of Gaming Control Commission that would be in charge of all gaming-related matters in the state.

However, she refused to predict whether Republicans, who are currently representing the majority of House legislators, will vote in favor of her bill.

As for Sen. Bradley, he does not seem to be particularly keen on any expansion of the state’s gambling industry. He pointed out that the Senate considers it more important to first solve the issue with the Seminole Tribe, as the license for the provision of table games is due to expire in a few months.

However, the proposed state budgets for the next financial year do not include the revenue that Florida currently receives from the Seminoles for being allowed to provide blackjack and certain other games in five of their gambling venues. Tribal officials had previously pointed out that they want their compact renewed, as table games attract high-rollers from Asia and this, in turn, boosts the tribe’s profits.

State Rep. Young did not include provisions concerning the Seminole Tribe’s exclusive license, due to the fact that her team is still negotiating with tribal chiefs.

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