Casino Watch Focus reported that the Coalition to oppose the Florida destination casinos bill had grown to an impressive level when top Florida Cabinet members Bondi, Putnam, and Atwater joined the fray. Now that the short, 60-day legislative session has begun, the clock is ticking on the bill’s supporter, Senator Bogdanoff, to get the votes necessary to pass the legislation. The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that the uphill battle has caused Senator Bogdanoff to rewrite the bill in a desperate hope to get support:
Senate sponsor Ellyn Bogdanoff last week released a 170-page rewrite of the bill to help take pressure off reluctant lawmakers by including a requirement that any county — including Miami Dade or Broward — that wants to attract one of three mega resorts must first get voter approval.
To win over supporters of the existing pari-mutuels, the revised bill allows them to operate Las Vegas-style games and receive a lowered tax rate if they compete directly with the new casinos. And across the state, any struggling horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons would be allowed to ask voters to let them install slot machines.
The bill also attempts to win over gaming opponents. Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, and House sponsor, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, would ban new pari-mutuel permits, regulate or close internet cafes and set up a strict new regulatory structure. The state would create a new “Department of Gaming Control” to administer and license the casino resorts and regulate the pari-mutuels and card rooms.
The bill has the effect of expanding gambling even more under the guise of allowing public choice. The best chance for the bill to gain early traction appears to be in the Senate. The Tampa Bay Times explains:
There is no guarantee these changes will assuage critics when the bill comes up for its first vote in the Senate. But the bigger test is in the House, where a conservative Republican majority and a presiding officer, whose home territory includes Disney World in Orlando, are reluctant to open the door to anything that could harm the state’s family-friendly tourism image. One thing is certain about the looming legislative debate over gambling: It will be an epic battle in Tallahassee.
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