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
Florida House of Representatives Majority Leader files major Gambling bill; Article on showdown over Seminole gambling agreement quoting me; McCain calls for re-examination of PASPA; Poarch Creek band of Indians threatens to sell marijuana from their Florida land if not given gambling; Comprehensive gambling deal in Florida described as “Enormous, Gargantuan Lift; Quotes from Orlando Sentinel gambling panel; Geller speaks at NCLGS
• Florida House of Representatives Majority Leader Dana Young filed a major re-write of gambling laws in Florida on March 2. This bill is over 320 pages, and will permit destination resorts, historic racing, and many other types of gambling in Florida. We will print a more complete analysis of this bill after we have time to review it, and see what the official Bill analysis says.
• Nick Sortal, the excellent gaming columnist in the Fort Lauderdale SunSentinel, wrote a column entitled “Showdown looming over Seminole gambling agreement.” One of the experts quoted in that article was … me. Sortal quoted Geller as saying “The one thing I can tell you with pretty good certainty is that anybody that tells you with certainty that they know what’s going to happen is wrong”.
• United States Senator John McCain has said that the U.S. Congress needs to reexamine the Federal ban on sports wagering [PASPA]. According to the Washington Post, McCain said “We need a debate in Congress… We need to have a talk with the American people, and we need to probably have hearings in Congress on this whole issue so we can build consensus.”
• The Poarch Creek Band of Indians (Poarch) is an Alabama-based tribe that owns about one acre of land in near Pensacola, Fl, where it is claiming the right to build a casino. According to the Associated Press, the Poarch currently operate a casino in Atmore Alabama, a few miles away from the Pensacola site. The Poarch are not currently a Federally recognized tribe in Florida, but they contend that they have the right to have casino gambling in Florida, based on the amount of time that the Florida land has been owned by the tribe. The Governor Rick Scott administration disagrees, stating that it is ‘premature” to negotiate with the Poarch until they have the necessary Federal recognition in Florida. The AP states that the Poarch are threatening to take advantage of a December opinion by the U.S. Department of Justice which will permit Tribes to raise and sell marijuana on their tribal property, and are stating that they will consider doing this in Florida if the Poarch do not get “a seat at the table” on Florida gambling issues.
• News Service of Florida has published a lengthy analysis of the difficulty in passing a comprehensive gambling bill under the headline “Gambling Deal ‘Enormous, Gargantuan Lift’ This Session”. That quote was from Rep. Dana Young. The article talks about Senate President Andy Gardiner’s repeated statements that he is fine with the Legislature doing nothing this year, and letting that portion of the Seminole Gaming Compact dealing with banked card games “sunset”, or expire. Gardiner has appointed Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano as the lead on gambling for the Florida Senate. Galvano was the lead for the Florida Legislature five years ago when the Seminole Gaming Compact was originally approved [Although not in the article, it should also be noted that Galvano is currently national Vice-President of the national Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS), and is expected to become President of that group in 2016]. The article quotes Galvano extensively. The article goes on to say that “any gambling measure runs the risk of being overloaded with wish lists from industry operators, including pari-mutuels in Broward and Miami dade Counties that already have slots but want a lower tax rate and card games to better compete with the nearby Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood.”
• Nick Sortal also wrote an interesting piece in the SunSentinel, including interesting quotes from many top players in the gambling debate from a panel discussion hosted at the Orlando Sentinel, the sister paper of the SunSentinel. Among those quoted were Geoff Freeman, President of the American Gaming Association; Mark Wilson, President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce; John Sowinski, President of CasiNos.org; and Izzy Havenick, a member of the family that owns Magic City Casino in Miami, as well as having other Florida Pari-mutuel interests.
• Since I mentioned NCLGS earlier, I want to point out that they had a very successful conference in Las Vegas in January. I spoke on three topics at their committee meetings, which may be a record for any single speaker. I spoke on updates in pari-mutuel technology, pari-mutuel decoupling, and gave an update on Indian gaming state compacts and Tribal recognition. The next NCLGS meeting is in June in Atlantic City.