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Florida Legislature ready to pass major gambling expansion

 April 20, 2009

TALLAHASSEE Both houses of the Florida legislature are considering two major gambling provisions. The first is legislation to authorize a new gaming compact with the Seminole Indian Tribe. The other is incentives for the state's pari-mutuel facilities to "level the playing field" with the Seminoles.

The Senate passed the Seminole gaming compact April 16th by a 27-11vote after virtually no debate. The bill (SB 788) authorizes full-blown casinos to the Tribe, including games that are currently illegal, in exchange for $400 million per year for public education funding.

The Senate will vote on a pari-mutuels bill (SB 836) next week that would reduce tax rates and permit certain table games at South Florida pari-mutuel facilities and allow video lottery terminals for pari-mutuels throughout the rest of the state.

The House is also expected to vote on pari-mutuels bill (HB 7145). That bill is tied to the Seminole compact bill (HB 7129) and requires ratification of the compact before the pari-mutuel provisions can be implemented.

The House pari-mutuels bill includes:

-- reduction in the tax rate from 50 to 36 percent;

-- eliminating current restrictions which allow card rooms to operate only 12 hours per day and expanding hours to 24 hours per day;

--raising betting limits for poker from $5 to $50 and for "Texas hold 'em" games from $100 to $1000;

-- reduction in the annual license fee to $2 million from $3 million.

Return to Florida Casinos.


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