New Gambling Legislation Introduced in Florida

by Jim Hall

As problems continue between tribes and the government of Florida, one legislator has introduced a new law to try and handle it all.

The state of Florida is one that has been having a hard time as of late in regards to the gambling industry. The Seminole Tribe cannot seem to come to an agreement for a new compact with the state in regards to casino gaming and other gaming operators are not happy that they are not allowed to offer games that have been exclusively given to the tribes for operation. Amidst all the contention, one legislation has introduced a new bill in the hopes of covering it all.

New Legislation

Senator Bill Galvano, FloridaSenator Bill Galvano introduced SB 8 last Thursday, a measure that cover everything from lottery sales at the gas pumps to daily fantasy sports contests. The efforts by Galvano are an attempt to stop the bickering among stakeholders in the industry, taking care of a standoff with the tribe and coming to a legal position when considering DFS gaming.

In the past, Florida has a history of being ambitious when it comes to legislation only to fail in delivery of laws. With SB 8, a gambling compact would be approved for the Seminole Tribe and the state. The compact would actually be the $3 billion one reached by Governor of the State Rick Scott and the tribe back in December of 2015. This compact was never ratified by legislature.

Last November, the subject of the compact took center stage as a federal court ruled that the state was in violation of the terms within a previous compact by allowing pari-mutuel operators to offer designated-player card games.

Galvano’s efforts are not without strings attached. Within the bill, it states that the tribe would have to drop all pending legal action against the state and accept revised exceptions from exclusivity on slot machine gaming as well as house-banked card games. In exchange for these concessions, the tribe would be allowed to offer wheel and dice games as well as expand blackjack to all six of their casinos in the state.

The bill will allow the pari-mutuel race tracks to offer blackjack if they cap the number of tables to 25 per race track. Two-card wagers are set at $100 for the tracks and 25% would have to pay in taxes based on the game’s monthly gross revenues. Slot machines could also be added by operators of pari-mutuels in areas where voters approved the idea after a referendum was placed on the ballot. Miami-Dade and Broward counties will also be provided with licensing opportunities for slot gaming.

Even more would be offered as SB 8 would permit decoupling and cut slot taxes to 25% from 35%. Operators of slot gaming would also be allowed to provide complimentary drinks of Jägermeister and on-site access to ATMs. Gaming could take place 24/7, which is a big difference from the 18 hours a day for slot gaming and 8 hours a day for card rooms.

Daily fantasy sports is also covered in the measure. An Office of Amusements would be created and would be used to oversee daily fantasy sports activities. License holders offering DFS contests would have to pay fees of $500,000 and an annual renewal fee of $100,000. Lower fees would be set for smaller operators aside from FanDuel and DraftKings.

The bill also calls for point of sale terminals to be created in the state to allow players to purchase lottery tickets while pumping gas. Overall, this is a huge amount of gambling options to consider and it will be interesting to see what lawmakers have to say on the matter.