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 Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association sued by unhappy member, Ebro Greyhound Track debate on whether greyhound racing should continue, and comparison between expanded gambling and expanded legalization of marijuana.
- According to the Ocala Star-Banner, The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association (FTBOA) has been sued by one of its members, who alleges multiple improprieties on the part of the FTBOA. The lawsuit includes allegations that the FTBOA has become too political, that the officers and directors have been elected improperly, and that the Legislature improperly designated the FTBOA as one of the state recognized horse racing associations in Florida. The Plaintiff formerly owned the land where Oxford Downs is located, and the FTBOA has filed a lawsuit against the current owners of Oxford Downs, as mentioned in a prior entry in this blog. The attorney for the Plaintiff is a partner in the Gretna facility which was granted a license for pari-mutuel barrel racing. The FTBOA also was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Gretna facility.
- An article in the Panama City (FL) News Herald contains a response by the owners of Ebro Greyhound Park to general allegations of animal cruelty in greyhound racing. Rick Hess’ family owns Ebro, and he defends thoroughbred racing, arguing that animal rights groups are trying to end thoroughbred racing in Florida, which would also hurt greyhounds and jobs. Carey Theil, the Executive Director of Grey2K USA Worldwide, a leading group seeking to end greyhound races, agreed with Theil’s statement that they are trying to eliminate greyhound racing, and went on to explain reasons that Theil believes greyhound racing should be eliminated.
- The Daytona Beach News-Journal published a column by Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson in which Gerson compares the growth of gambling to the growth of legal marijuana. Gerson states that both bring in new tax dollars and are supported in the name of personal liberty. Gerson states that “both find common ground in encouraging and exploiting the weaknesses and addictions of citizens.”
AP Publishes Article on Hard Times at Greyhound Tracks, and Florida Lottery Sets New Annual Sales Record
The AP published a good story on July 9 on the hard times facing racing at the greyhound tracks in Florida, using Flagler Dog Track (a/k/a Magic City Casino) as an example, quoting Izzy Havenick, a member of the family that has owned Flagler since the 1950’s. This blog has referenced Havenick before. The article discusses the move to decouple racing from casino gaming. The article quotes Lonny Powell , President of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association (also previously discussed in this blog) expressing concerns about decoupling because of the precedent that it could set for Horse Racing.
According to the News Service of Florida, the Florida Lottery has set a new annual sales record of over $5.3 billion, with over $1.4 billion of that going to education funding.