Breaking: Florida House moves forward on gambling expansion
Possibly sensing the end of opportunity after the state’s Supreme Court allowed an anti-casino voter initiative to go forward for the 2018 ballot, the Florida House has made several concessions that could result in a gambling deal for Florida.
The offer includes a new casino for Miami-Dade County, de-coupling all live dog racing and at least one horse track from slot machines, and authorizing the Seminole Tribe to offer roulette and craps.
Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz have been leading a gambling conference for the last two days, a summit that Galvano put off until after last week’s Supreme Court decision. According to local media outlets, Diaz stated, “We know that time is running out, so we wanted to make a substantial offer to the Senate,” in introducing the proposed compromise to which Galvano later replied, “[The proposal] was a substantial offer that tells me that you came in here ready to get the ball moving down the field.”
Under the proposal, any new casino in Miami-Dade could have no more than 1,500 slot machines and be located no closer than five miles to an existing parimutuel facility. It would also have to result in the surrender of another pari-mutuel permit and be selected in a competitive bidding process.
Genting is well situated in Miami with a recent 90-year lease on air above over the Miami Omni bus terminal with access to the Adrienne Arsht Center Metromover station where they will invest $22 million in the county-owned properties, and 30 acres of adjacent Biscayne Bay waterfront land that formerly held the Miami Herald along with the Omni retail and hotel complex.
The Miami Herald reports that Fontainebleau Miami Beach would also likely compete for any new slots license.
Under the proposal the Seminole Tribe of Florida would be allowed to offer roulette and craps at all seven of its Florida casinos and, with voter approval, Calder Casino & Race Course in Miami Gardens could stop live horse racing as could all dog tracks in the state.
Other details found in Wednesday’s breaking Miami Herald report include an agreement that video gaming devices found in bars are to be considered Class III slots, slot machine taxes would be reduced if operators offer fewer machines, and “designated player” card games would be allowed under strictly defined and regulated rules.
The House proposal asks compromise from the Senate as it only authorizes a single casino in Miami-Dade rather than including another in Broward county.
If lawmakers plan to settle state law before contentious litigation in the courts is decided, they will still need to come to an agreement on what to do about eight Florida counties that have seen voters approve the addition of slot machines to their parimutuel facilities, including jai alai frontons.
The Senate had earlier proposed, and now the House has agreed to a provision that would ask the Seminole Tribe to give lawmakers two years to resolve any alleged compact violations.
The Senate may make a counter-offer as soon as today, according to The Herald.
Long-time casino antagonist John Sowinski of Voters in Charge, No Casinos, and other so-called grassroots organizations was not pleased with the development.
“This conference committee process is a prime example why gambling expansion should not be subject to legislative ‘sausage making’ as it results in gambling creep,” he said. “It is clear that there needs to be a bright line in the Florida Constitution that gives Florida voters the exclusive right to authorize gambling in our state.”
A poll released in March which was commissioned by one of Sowinski’s groups concluded that 84% of respondents statewide opposed gambling expansion, while 60% said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported it.