Gambling Expansion Moves Forward for Some Florida Communities but Requires Additional Legislative Action

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many gambling expansion efforts in Florida.  Most of the attention has centered on bringing full Vegas-style gambling resort casinos to the family-centered state.  However, several local communities have been debating expanding gambling through slot machines.  With the elections over, a few of those communities have passed referendums to allow for slot machines in one form or another.  However, those battles are far from over as local communities need approval from the legislature to move forward. An online Florida source explains:

A day after convincing Lee County voters to pass a referendum allowing Las Vegas-style slot machines at their facility, Bonita Springs dog track owners prepared for a more difficult challenge: convincing Tallahassee.

The Legislature must pass a bill allowing slots in Lee before any machines can be installed. Attorney General Pam Bondi ruled in January that local slots referendums such as Lee County’s were illegitimate and gambling in the state can only expand through a change in state law. The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which awards slot machine licenses to pari-mutuel wagering tracks, is following Bondi’s opinion.

The decision for the state legislature is not simple.  The state’s agreement with the Seminole Tribe prevents such slot machines.  The source continues:

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has a 20-year, $1 billion deal with the state. The deal gives the tribe a slots monopoly everywhere but Miami-Dade and Broward counties, which approved slots before the Seminole deal was struck in 2010. The tribe’s attorney, Barry Richard, said the Seminoles would stop payments to the state if the deal is broken and slots are allowed in places such as Lee.

The tribe, which worked on getting a gambling deal with the state for 19 years before signing it in 2010, pays the state $233 million annually. Part of the compact expires in 2015 but that involves authorization for table games such as blackjack. Slots payments run until 2030.

Many among Florida’s leadership have argued that gambling expansion is not the answer to solve the state’s economic issues.  Time exists to contact your local representative and urge them to oppose any bills that come up to formally allow these narrowly won victories to become official state law.

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