Casino Watch Focus reported that after a Florida appellate court upheld the decision of a lower court to effectively allow legislators to expand gambling without a vote of the people, the anticipated “destination casino” bills were filed. Now, one Florida House Rep is looking to capitalize on people’s frustrations by enacting a different gambling bill. The Miami Herald explains:
In an attempt to shift the debate from Miami casinos to the state’s bottom line, state Rep. Joe Abruzzo is filing a bill Wednesday to direct Gov. Rick Scott to give the Seminole Tribe exclusive operation of casino games in Florida for 15 more years in exchange for an annual guarantee of $750 million.
The four-page bill would authorize the governor to re-open the 20-year gambling compact signed in 2009 by Gov. Charlie Crist that now requires the Seminole Tribe of Florida to guarantee $1 billion in the first five years in exchange for the exclusive right to offer table games in Miami Dade and Broward and slot machines outside of South Florida. The tribe now pays an average of $150 million a year under the agreement.
Abruzzo is trying to disguise the bill as one that would prevent the South Florida designation casinos, prevent expanded gambling and provide more money to the state. He is selling it as something that wouldn’t expand gambling when he claims that “this still maintains what is a (gambling) deal but would not be that massive of an expansion. Clusters of neighborhoods based around gaming would not be popping up outside of what already exists within Indian reservations.” However, the Seminoles wouldn’t be supportive of the bill if they had to pay out $750 million to the state with no new revenue or possible venues. Most interestingly however, the bill would also allow the Compact to be reopened and with it, the chance for more full scale Vegas style gambling. The Miami Herald goes on to explain what Abruzzo’s motivation for such change could be:
Abruzzo, a gambling supporter, has also filed a local bill that would allow the Palm Beach County Kennel Club to start offering slot machines – a measure that, if passed, would violate the current gambling compact with the state.
It seems plausible that he is simply attempting to allow additional gambling at current Seminole locations, while altering the compact to allow for slots and other gambling in new locations. Either way, bills like this draw a skeptical eye and typically for good reason. The best support to protect the families of Florida is to oppose any new attempts at expanding gambling in the state, even those who’s authors claim it “wouldn’t be that massive of an expansion.”
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