Florida Reconsiders Expanded Gambling

The Florida Senate is reviewing issues held over from last year, like decoupling live racing from gambling and lowering the slots tax rate. In the House, state Rep. Jason Brodeur filed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from state regulation. Brodeur said like a fishing tournament or dog show, skill is required to win. Speaker Richard Corcoran (l.) vows to oppose any bill that expands gaming.

Gambling issues held over from last year are moving forward in the Florida Senate, including allowing racetracks to decouple live races from other forms of gambling and lowering the tax rate on slots.

In the House, which typically has opposed expanded gambling, Speaker Richard Corcoran said comprehensive gambling legislation “is somewhere between a 1 percent and 99 percent certainty. But I don’t want to tell people 1 percent because then they won’t be vigilant. Dams could break and all of a sudden everybody’s on the same page. But it’s one of the hardest things we try to accomplish. We’ve had less than 1 percent success the seven years I’ve been here.”

The House Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee unanimously approved state Rep. Jason Brodeur’s HB 223 which would exempt fantasy sports from state gambling regulation. Brodeur said DFS is similar to a fishing tournament or a dog show, meaning skill is required to win.

suggesting one needs talent to win. An estimated 3 million Floridians said they play some sort of fantasy sports.

However, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has told lawmakers if fantasy sports bills pass, that would violate the Seminole Compact, guaranteeing the tribe exclusive rights to blackjack in return for more than $200 million annually. The tribe has said it would end the payments.

State Senator Dana also filed a fantasy sports bill, SB 374.

Last year an omnibus gambling bill failed because the two chambers “were too far apart,” said then-House negotiator state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. The House disagreed with the Senate’s proposal to expand slot machines to parimutuels in counties that had approved them in local referendums.

Recently, a citizen initiative to put a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot mandating voter approval of any new gambling recently gathered enough signatures to be placed on the November ballot.

Corcoran noted, “We would love to have a long-standing, 20 or 30 years certainty of what gaming looks like for Florida,. At the same time, we would like to see a contraction” of gambling, given our make-up as a family-values state. Those conversations are constantly going on. Last year, we got to a point where we were in conference and got very close. Is it possible we could get back to a conference posture and get closer? Yes. And all of the other things going on, the constitutional amendment, could give us additional leverage.”

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