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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Casino bill revived in Senate with full plate of sweeteners



A reconstituted casino gaming bill emerged in the Senate Tuesday, allowing for a casino to be built in one of five regions in the state, exempting Orlando's tourism havens, and providing sweeteners to the parimutuel industry.

The bill, by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami, was approved 4-2, by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, after a series of amendments and some scolds from Committee Chairwoman Nancy Detert, R-Venice. The bill revives much of the language from a bill proposed by Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, but  gives the horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons that operate slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward the same casino games and the same tax rate as the so-called resort casinos -- 10 percent.

Jones wouldn't agree to providing tax breaks to the parimutuel industry and, faced with amendments, pulled his bill from further consideration last week.

Braynon acknowledged the new casinos would violate the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe but predicted it would create 100,000 jobs and bring in more revenue than the $235 million lost from tribal revenue.

"This is the only bill that I have seen that actually produces jobs,'' said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, who supported the measure. "I have seen a lot of bills that give a lot of breaks and give money away from the state...this is going to bring money into the state."

But Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, voted against the bill but warned that the casinos were headed directly to Miami. "It really is a sad day in Florida when we've made the decision that the way we're going to fix our economy is by expanding gaming,'' she said. "No one is going to try to put it in the Panhandle, so we're going to put it in my backyard."

Also voting against the bill was Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 12:47pm]


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