Category Archives: legislation

Disney backs Florida Initiative Petition Efforts to Allow Voters the Final Say in State Gambling Matters

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing progress of the initiative petition by Voters in Charge which seeks to make all gambling expansion decisions passed by the legislature pass a vote of the people before they can become law. Many view this as a wonderful check on gambling expansion given the resent report that 84% of Florida voters want to hold the line or dial back gambling in the state. Most recently, the petition passed a legal challenge and the Florida Supreme Court cleared the bill to proceed, ruling it properly dealt with one subject and is not misleading. Now, Disney has decided to back the effort to collect the final signatures to put it on the 2018 ballot. An online source explains:

According to the group’s information on Facebook, Voters in Charge is sponsoring a ballot initiative “to give Florida voters, not politicians, the exclusive right to approve or disapprove casino gambling.”

Disney’s support for Voters in Charge jibes with the corporation’s previous claims that destination casinos would spoil the family-friendly vibe that its DisneyWorld resort prefers to give off. Disney is one of the highest – if not the top – contributor in the political committee’s campaign last month. 

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Threat of Massive Florida Gambling Expansion from New Gambling Bills Ends over House and Senate Differences

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of gambling expansion in Florida. Most recently, the both the Florida House and Senate passed gambling bills, but both were very different. The House bill focused on a new Agreement with the Seminole tribe and shoring up loopholes and various items. The Senate bill, however, was a full scale buffet of gambling expansion options including new casinos, new counties being allowed to offer slot machines, other various gambling expansion options. Once bills are passed, the House and Senate must come together to reconcile the various versions of the bill and produce one, agreed upon piece of legislation. The Miami-Herald is now reporting a huge victory for Florida families and this years legislative session is closing with no major gambling bill because the House and Senate were just too far apart on a unified bill:

A deal that could have allowed at least one new casino in Miami, permitted craps and roulette at the seven casinos operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and authorized slot machines in eight more Florida counties collapsed Tuesday. After months of working on competing gambling legislation, Florida House and Senate negotiators declared an impasse that had no hope of being resolved by Friday, when the Legislature was scheduled to end its annual 60-day session. “It’s dead,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

There were many reasons the deal crumbled Tuesday, but Diaz said the main problem was what to do about eight counties where voters approved slot machines at dog racing and horse racing tracks. Voters have passed a statewide referendum to allow slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward, but there has never been a statewide referendum for the other counties.

The gaming bill’s demise prevents Genting, a Malaysian company, from building a casino in Miami on the former site of the Miami Herald. The Senate plan also could have allowed the declining horse and dog racing and jai-alai industries to stop racing and operate as slot casinos exclusively.

Whereas the finalization of a compact between the State and the Seminole tribe is less than ideal and could lead to more expanded gambling in the future if the deal is handled improperly, the fact that massive gambling expansion through decoupling efforts with dog and horse race facilities, new slot machines in 8 new counties, and new casinos were avoided, it is absolutely a victory to celebrate.

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GUEST ARTICLE: [Florida] Lawmakers’ Rushed Deal to Expand Casinos in Miami is a Reckless Gamble

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida by authorizing a new, Las Vegas style, destination resort casino. As recently pointed out by the Mason-Dixon poll, the vast amount of voters, 84%, want to either hold the line or actually reduce gambling expansion. When it came to gambling expansion through new casinos, the Florida legislature has typically done as the people have asked and not expanded gambling in this measure. However, that appears to be coming to an end as House and Senate are making a deal to allow a new casino to come to Miami and they are facing huge opposition. The below article is the office Miami Herald Editorial Board position:

After years of an impasse between the House and Senate on expanding casinos in Florida, comes a sudden and unseemly rush to get the job done.

The Legislature needs to slow its roll of the dice. Legislation pushed through in a hurry, without much, if any, public notice or input, is never a good thing….

House and Senate leaders appear to be closing in on a deal to radically revamp Florida’s gambling industry and strike an agreement with the Seminole Tribe in what could be a considerable expansion of gambling throughout the state — and Miami-Dade.

The measure rightly has been met with resistance from gambling opponents. This rush toward a decision in the session’s final days to allow, among other things, a new casino in Miami-Dade has that hush-hush, backroom feel — almost always unwise, and usually at taxpayers’ expense.

Count the Editorial Board among those calling for putting the brakes on this troubling quickie deal. The Board has long opposed turning Miami-Dade into a Las Vegas-style destination — and we continue to do so. Gambling, indeed, can transform communities — often for the worse. Miami-Dade is a progressive community of great accomplishment, but one, too, that already is a magnet for too many dangerous and illicit activities. Casinos won’t help…

Among the opponents of the deal is Armando Codina, one of Miami’s most prominent developers, who told Herald/Times reporter Mary Ellen Klas that he was surprised by the sudden legislative sprint. Codina, chairman of Codina Partners, LLC, a real estate investment and development firm based in Coral Gables, has long been a critic of expanded gambling in the county.

“I’m well-informed, but this surprised me how it was snuck in without any public debate,” said Codina.

He added that while the new gambling revenue would flow to the state and county, it will cost Miami-Dade dearly, leaving the community with the kind of infrastructure and social problems that it is already hard-pressed to handle. We agree. 

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GUEST ARTICLE: How the Florida House Gambling Bill is the More Sensible Approach

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling bills presented in this years Florida Legislature. Its very clear that both take very different approaches to the issue and a guest article published by Florida Politics by NoCasinos John Sowinski, breaks the issues down and concludes the House has the more sensible approach:

There are two things we can count on in Florida. In any given body of water, eventually the alligators will show up. And in any given meeting of the Florida Legislature, the same applies to gambling lobbyists. Feed either and they only become more insatiable.

With regard to the gambling interests, unfortunately, the Florida Senate is setting up a buffet of glutinous proportions. Proposed legislation calls for the biggest expansion of gambling in Florida’s history.

It literally would recreate our state in Nevada’s image, with casinos popping up in communities from the far reaches of the Panhandle to the end of the Everglades.

There would be two new Las Vegas-style casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade, a region already suffering from a glut of casinos. There would be a massive increase in gambling supply there, without a corresponding increase in gamblers, creating a dynamic in which the casinos could only survive by cannibalizing each other’s customers. Even the gambling industry’s own financial experts predict that 95 percent of the patrons would be locals, not tourists.

This type of gambling over-saturation is what brought the industry crashing down in Atlantic City, but not before it eviscerated existing local jobs and businesses from restaurants to retail stores.

But the Senate bill does not stop with more gambling in South Florida. Initially, casinos would spread to eight other counties. That only would be for starters because under Senate Bill 8, every horse track, dog track or jai alai fronton could become a casino.

Getting back to the alligator analogy, what the Senate is proposing is akin to taking 500 bags of marshmallows out into the middle of Lake Okeechobee at midnight and tossing them in the water….

Understanding this, leaders in the Florida House have taken a different tack. They have put forth a bill that fixes weaknesses in existing gambling law, closes loopholes that gambling lawyers continually exploit, stops the proliferation of slot machines throughout Florida, honors Florida’s constitutional restrictions on gambling, and respects the will of the people of Florida, who have consistently rejected statewide expansions of gambling. Finally, it provides for an agreement with the Seminole tribe that would achieve the stated intent of the original Seminole compact — holding the line on gambling and creating a firewall to stop the spread of casinos throughout Florida.

The entire article can be read HERE

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Seminole Tribe Say Both Florida Gambling Bills are Unacceptable

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts by the Florida Legislature to reach a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe. Most recentlythe balance of negotiating power shifted to the Seminole Tribe as a court has ruled the State violated the exclusivity agreement and is allowing the Seminole Tribe to offer table games through 2030. As another legislative session begins in the Florida Legislature, politicians are attempting to deal with gambling expansion issues while balancing the long standing relationship with the Seminole Tribe. As recently reported, both the Florida House and Senate have gambling bills moving forward, but they are very different and they both impact a potential new deal with the Seminole Tribe. The Tribe, while calling the House bill less objectionable, has indicated nether bill is one they can support. An online source explains:

Two competing bills in the Florida legislature each seek to find different solutions to the fact that tribe and state have been unable to negotiate a new compact since the previous one expired in 2015. The Seminoles this week rejected both, even the one that’s supposedly designed to protect their interests.

A bill currently wending its way through the House would allow the Seminoles to be granted exclusivity on banked card games, as was the case with its previous compact, but in exchange for $3 billion in payments to the state over seven years. By contrast, a bill authored by the influential senator, Bill Galvano, would charge the Seminoles the same fee over the same timeline but for the right to offer craps and roulette, as well as blackjack.

In a letter to legislative leaders this week, Seminole Tribal Council chairman Marcellus Osceola said that while the House bill was “less objectionable,” neither bills “make economic sense for the tribe.” We think they’re talking about the “$3 billion to the state” bit. The House bill is less objectionable because it is essentially a status quo bill, an antidote to the rampant gambling expansion of Galvano’s proposal. It’s clear that, for the Seminoles, the thought of exclusivity on craps and roulette would not offset the increased competition from the proliferation of blackjack and slots throughout the state. The tribe’s point-blank refusal is indicative of the its new-found leverage in the negotiations, thanks to a recent court ruling in their favor.

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Florida House and Senate at Odds over best Gambling Future for the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of expanded gambling in Florida. Most recently, its was reported that the Florida Senate introduced a massive gambling expansion bill. Earlier this monththe Senate pushed the gambling bill through its first hurdle by approving it in committee. An online source provides some key details of the bill: 

A bill that calls for statewide gambling expansion *has passed a vote in the Florida Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee*. Sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, the proposed 112-page law will next be heard in the Committee on Appropriations. If it gains the necessary support there, the legislation will next advance to the Senate floor.

Generally speaking, Senate Bill 8 will allow for the addition of more slot machines at more gambling facilities. In order for this to be possible, the legislative piece proposes a change in the definition of *“eligible facility.”* Under SB 8, slots will be legal in all counties where the operation of the devices has been approved in a countywide referendum. Other counties will be able add slot machines, if their residents vote positively on the move at referendums that can take place after January 1, 2018. Sen. Galvano has also proposed what has been defined as ‘decoupling’, a measure that would allow state dog and horse tracks to feature other gambling options such as card games and slots *without having to run live races*. In addition, SB 8 will allow the Seminole Tribe, which operates a number of casinos across Florida, to offer different banked table games, including *craps, roulette, and sic-bo*. However, the tribe will no longer have monopoly over the provision of blackjack around the state.

Now, the Florida House has released its direction for Florida’s gambling future with its own bill. This bill is seen as more practical and potentially less harmful to Florida’s families. The Saint Peters Blog reports: 

The Florida House of Representatives quietly released its gambling overhaul for 2017 Thursday afternoon, setting it for a hearing next Thursday. As expected, the 81-page bill includes a renewed blackjack deal, or “compact,” between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as first struck by Gov. Rick Scott.  No Casinos, the gambling expansion group, soon tweeted: “Still analyzing bill, but at first blush @MyFLHouse seems to have found a way to renew compact without turning FL into Vegas/Atlantic City.” 

But the House already is at odds with the Senate’s 112-page measure, which is set for its second and last committee hearing next week before the Appropriations panel. In one significant example, the House bill outlaws designated-player card games, but the Senate would let “all cardroom operators … offer designated player games.” In banked card games, players bet against the “house,” or the casino, and not each other. In traditional poker, people play against each other for a pot of money. Designated-player games are a hybrid, where the bank is supposed to revolve among the players. Moreover, the House would prohibit the expansion of slot machines, retroactively to Jan. 1 of this year, by barring state regulators from issuing any new slots licenses. The Senate generally expands the availability of slot machines, including allowing “any licensed pari-mutuel facility” to get slots.

Last month, House Speaker *Richard Corcoran* suggested his chamber’s approach to gambling would be different. “I’ve seen the (Senate) bill, and look, it’s not where we’re at,” Corcoran told reporters. “The three things we’ve said are, it has to be a contraction (of gambling) … we want a constitutional amendment that bans the expansion of gaming; the Senate’s said they have no interest … and we have courts that keep encroaching upon our ability to make those decisions.” 

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Florida Greyhound Industry Under fire as Gambling Interests Attempt to Leverage Poor Treatment of Dogs as a Means to Expand Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issues facing Florida’s greyhound industry. The treatment of the dogs has certainly been concerning and has lead to many calling for an end of such an old and problematic form of gambling. Most legislators have focused on legislation that will protect the dogs. Most recently, several State Representatives pushed forth legislation to prevent doping of the dogs. Florida Politics reports: 

Decrying that racing dog owners are “doping greyhounds,” state Rep. *Carlos Guillermo Smith* joined state Rep. *Alexandra Miller* and*Dana Young* Friday in another effort to tighten regulation of dog racing in Florida, with a bill explicitly banning the use of steroids. The trio asserted that female racing greyhounds are routinely given injections of anabolic steroids, or testosterone, to prevent the loss of race days and push their bodies beyond natural limits. “We know they are using steroids,” Smith said. “They are doping greyhounds. It’s inhumane.”

 While these efforts are clearly aimed at protecting the animals, such efforts are vastly different from those that claim dog racing and gambling should simply be separated, an act knows as de-coupling, leaving mini casino’s in their place. Those that seek regulation of the dogs in such a straightforward manor, often call for the end of dog racing and the gambling that keeps it in existence. However, those that seek to continue the gambling simply try to exploit the issues facing the dogs & decreased attendance and instead of concluding that the entire industry should cease to exist, they say its reason for de-coupling. Paul Seago, the executive of No Casinos, provides the analysis in an op-ed written for the Herald-Tribune:

Since horse and greyhound racing and jai alai were legalized in Florida in the 1930s, pari-mutuel owners have engaged in an almost ceaseless yearly pilgrimage to the state capitol to beg, cajole and lobby for more and more gambling with the same mantra, “give us more gambling so we can compete …;” Over the years, the Florida Legislature has given pari-mutuels simulcast wagering, poker rooms, higher poker-hand limits, and no-limit poker over the years without a vote of Floridians and without competitive bids… It is a phenomenon we call “gambling creep” (and is the subject of a video we have posted on our website at www.NoCasinos.org

Now, pari-mutuels have their sights set on slot machines, essentially making each one a casino. Recall that Florida voters rejected the idea of turning every pari-mutuel in the state into a casino in 1994 by a 2-to-1 ratio. That didn’t stop the pari-mutuels from continuing to ask lawmakers for more gambling, finally receiving card rooms in 1996. At first their arguments were that people loved racing and jai alai but needed new forms of gambling to enhance prize purses so they could continue to offer their races and live performances. Now they argue no one wants to watch racing and live jai alai so they need more gambling to continue to exist and they no longer want to offer races and live events. We take exception to pari-mutuel owners feeling that their license gives them a birthright to whatever forms of gambling become fashionable over time.

If pari-mutuels no longer wish to do the only thing the Florida Constitution authorizes them to do, they should turn in their licenses and find another purpose for their land. Instead, the Legislature has given each of these license-holders the idea that their permit is a Willy Wonka-style “golden ticket” that will one day transform their ancient track or fronton into a Las Vegas-style casino. That is not following the free market, or the wishes of Florida voters. It’s giving into crony capitalists looking for another round of corporate welfare.

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