Gambling Bill HB 7037 Moves Forward in Florida

by Jim Hall

Representative Mike La RosaMembers of the Florida House Committee have approved a gambling bill sponsored by Representative Mike La Rosa.

Gambling has been a hot topic of debate in the state of Florida on a number of fronts.  From operators wanting more leeway when it comes to gaming offerings to the Seminole Tribe yet to sign a contract, there has been a great deal going on in the state in regards to the gambling industry. This week, legislative movement took place as the Florida House Committee voted in approval of a measure sponsored by Representative Mike La Rosa.

Gambling Bill Moves Forward

HB 7037 was approved by the Committee with a vote of 11 to 7 this week, with the legislation basically created to see the current gambling industry remain as is. This bill is a far departure from the measure under consideration in the Senate, which is calling for a large gambling expansion for the state.

The new bill in the House was introduced last month and was able to move past the House Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee soon after it was proposed. The bill most likely moved forward quickly because La Rosa is the chairman of the subcommittee. The legislation will now move on to the Commerce Committee where it will be considered. If approved there, the bill will move on to the full House floor.

The House legislation proposes a solution to a conflict between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe, an issue that has lasted for almost two years now. A 2010 compact provided the tribe with exclusive rights to offer the game of blackjack for a five year time frame. During the summer of 2015, the time frame ended and the Seminoles continued to offer blackjack gaming. The tribe argued that the state had been in violation of their gaming contract by allowing pari-mutuels to provide table gaming similar to blackjack.

The tribe and state have gone back and forth for almost two years, each suing the other. Several attempts have been made to see a new compact created so that the feud can end. With the new House bill, the tribe would be allowed to continue with their monopoly of blackjack but pay $3 billion to the state by way of contributions for a time frame of seven years.

During their five year period of exclusivity, the tribe paid a much smaller amount than the $3 billion requested. The tribe has shown disdain over the bill introduced into the Senate as it gives the tribe the right to add more games such as craps and roulette but does not allow them to continue with their exclusive rights to table games.

Additional Info in the Bill

Apart from the tribal issue, HB 7037 also contains information regarding the pari-mutuel industry. Provisions are included in the bill that scarps horse and dog racing events in favor of casino operators. Slot machines will not be allowed to be added in designated counties despite the fact that voters approved such gaming in countywide votes. The bill in the Senate calls for the exact opposite, allowing such gaming expansions to take place across the state.

It is interesting to see that both groups have contrasting bills. It seems like there may be no end in sight to the gambling challenges faced in the state as the House wants to go one way while the Senate is focused on another approach. The House bill will now need to move through one more committee before a full floor vote. Lawmakers may find they are considering two conflicting measures and have only until to May to make a decision on the matter, as the current legislative session will be coming to an end.