Gambling Bill Progresses in Florida

by Kyle Miller

FloridaA bill within the Florida Senate has gained ground as gambling expansion discussions continue in the state.

There are only two weeks left for the Legislature of Florida to create new gambling legislation and it seems time may run out before progress is made. The main body of government for the state is currently considering two bills. One is sponsored by the Senate and one is sponsored by the House. The bill would be used as the new framework to create regulations for the gambling services provided in the state in the future. The Senate bill seems to be the one gaining ground.

Meeting This Week

A meeting took place this past Monday so that legislators could come together and discuss the next steps for gambling legislation for the state before the current legislative session comes to an end on the 5th of May. The Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Bill Galvano who is also a committee chair. Galvano stated yesterday that the bill has gained ground over the House bill after the Supreme Court made a decision last week.

Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing the citizens of the state to vote in order to allow for gambling expansion. This led to the non-profit organization Voters In Charge to begin to collect signatures in order to see an amendment voted on for the state Constitution which would make it possible for voters to approve a gambling expansion for the state. If the proper number of signatures are gathered, the amendment would be voted on in next year’s ballot.

So why is this important? The gambling expansion portion is what the bill in the Senate is pushing for. Galvano feels that now the Supreme Court has shown support for voters to have a say in the matter, then his bill could be approved before the May deadline. If the provisions of the bill are signed into law, then slot machines would be allowed to be introduced in counties across the state where voters had already given approval in the past.

More Topics Discussed

On Monday, another topic was discussed involving the gambling industry of the state. Pre-reveal games were up for debate, games that are currently operated in bars across the state. Should these games be considered slot machines? Galvano has proposed that the games are slot machines and if his proposal is approved, then a pending court case will come to a close.

Lawmakers also have to try and solve and issue with the Seminole Tribe and come up with an agreement based on gaming. The tribe has yet to sign a new contract with the state. If a new deal is signed between the state and the tribe, it could see the state earning as much as $3 billion in revenues during a seven year time frame. Tribal casinos would like to be given exclusivity over blackjack in exchange for the funds.

The tribe was offered the opportunity to lose their monopoly on blackjack but add more table games and still pay the $3 billion to the state. The Seminoles were not happy with this arrangement proposal. The tribe has been open to discussions on the topic of a gaming agreement but want to be fairly compensated for what they are providing the state in return.

Overall, it is important for Florida lawmakers to make some decisions on the gambling industry before the May deadline. It will be important to see if any changes are agreed upon and what exactly the state will be offering by way of gaming in the near future.