An analysis of Florida HB 1233, the major gambling bill introduced by House Majority Leader Dana Young

Departing from my normal custom of covering multiple items in each blog post, this post will be limited to a description of HB 1233, the major re-write of Florida gambling law filed by Florida House of Representatives Majority Leader Dana Young. This will also include some initial reaction to the bill. The post is based on articles from the Miami Herald, the Tampa Tribune, the Associated Press, and my own reading of the bill. Fair warning: The bill is 316 pages. I am only listing some of the highlights of the legislation, and there are certainly fine details in the bill which will only become apparent after close study.

The bill includes the following issues:

  • It permits Historic Racing, which are few second snippets of real races, without any identifying information as to which races are being shown. This has proven very profitable in other states. The tax rate in this bill on Historic Racing is an unusually low 2%. This would be permitted even at pari-mutuels outside of Miami-Dade and Broward.
  • There are tax changes which encourage greyhound simulcasting and ITW, and discourage live racing. Live greyhound racing will no longer be required to have cardrooms or slot machines.
  • There is extensive language pertaining to medication of racing animals.
  • There are requirements for reporting of racing greyhound injuries. Similar legislation to this section passed the Florida Senate on the first day of the Legislative Session this week.
  • The bill clarifies what types of unregulated “wagering” are permitted at locations such as Dave and Busters and truck stops. It further clarifies that the types of machines commonly found in “adult arcades” are illegal.
  • It establishes a Gaming Control Commission, which will assume control over regulating most types of gaming in Florida, and sets forth strict ethical requirements.
  • It will permit slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties that meet certain criteria. It appears that the only two counties that meet this description are Palm Beach and Lee counties.
  • It will permit up to two “destination resorts” in counties that meet certain criteria. It appears to say that there can be no more than one destination resort in any county, and that the only two counties that meet the criteria are Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The bill preempts local regulation of the destination resorts. The bill requires an additional $ Two Billion Dollars of investment, although every fiscal analysis I’ve ever seen for a Broward destination resort implies that it will be very difficult to justify that large of an expenditure in Broward. It requires a full waiver of sovereign immunity if a bidder is an Indian tribe. It sets forth a lengthy selection process for qualifying to bid, and criteria for judging the successful bidders. It sets forth taxes and fees. It limits the “gaming floor” to 10% of the resort.
  • In the event that destination resorts are established, it will reduce the tax rate on slot machines at the Miami -Dade and Broward pari-mutuels from 35% to 25%.
  • It requires compulsive gambling programs.
  • It makes portability of existing pari-mutuel permits more difficult, and makes it more difficult to create new pari-mutuel permits.
  • The bill males little reference to the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The Legislation is far more comprehensive than any legislation filed or contemplated in the Florida Senate, and Senate leaders do not seem very receptive to the Legislation. John Sowinski, a leading opponent of gambling in Florida, referred to the bill as “the biggest expansion of Gambling in Florida history.” No Casinos, Inc. is purchasing television ads to oppose the Legislation, while the Seminole Tribe of Florida is purchasing television ads to support the renewal of the Seminole Gaming Compact, which would largely be gutted if the bill is adopted.

The bill can be seen its entirety at http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=54451

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