Casino Watch Focus reported that two Florida State Senators, Dennis Jones and Maria Sachs, filed legislation to allow five destination casinos throughout the state. The bill was immediately opposed by the pari-mutual industry and the Seminole Tribe was quick to point out that if the bill passed, they would no longer be obligated to pay the state $250 million a year for five years. Now The Palm Beach Post News is reporting that political pressure and a key amendment has killed the bill this legislative session:
State Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, who has spearheaded the Senate’s gaming efforts the past few years, is withdrawing a proposal to bring five “destination resorts” to the state that would have featured full casino gaming.
The decision, in the face of fierce behind-the-scenes opposition from the state’s pari-mutuel industry, likely ends the possibility of any major gambling expansion this year.
Jones’ bill died after Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, attached an amendment that would have allowed South Florida pari-mutuels to also operate as casinos – with table games and craps in addition to slot machines — with a tax rate identical to any future destination casinos.
Sen. Jones said that his intent was not to see gambling expanded at the pari-mutal level, so he pulled the bill. Even though this bill has failed, there is still time for other similar bills to get passed. The Palm Beach Post News explained that the odds are not in the casinos favor however:
Backers of destination casinos are still holding out hope. Similar bills have been filed by state Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-North Miami Beach. But supporters acknowledge they will be a tough sell, particularly in a conservative House that has fought gaming expansion in the past.
Braynon’s bill is set for a Senate committee hearing next week, but the House measure may die in a logistical snafu. The proposal was assigned to a subcommittee that House Speaker Dean Cannon disbanded after its chair, Rep. Esteban Bovo, R-Hialeah, resigned last week to run for the Miami-Dade County Commission. Cannon, who is largely anti-gaming, would need to reassign the bill to a new committee for it to move forward.