House gamble bill reduces tax, increases horses
The House has released the second piece of its gambling package, dropping Broward and Miami Dade racinos tax rate from 50 percent to 36 percent in return for a minimum of $140 million in revenues dedicated to education each year and reviving the state's quarter horse industry.
"We wanted to create an atmosphere where there was an absolute incentive to invest in our economy and at the same time give the ability to compete,'' said Rep. Bill Galvano, chairman of the House committee charged with drafting the gambling bills.
But despite the talk about not expanding gambling, the House does what the Senate -- thus far -- does not. It gives expanded games to quarter horse tracks like Hialeah and Ocala if they run 40 races. After that, they can get poker rooms and the higher-end thoroughbred races.
Galvano said the goal of expanded horse racing is to help the quarter horse permit holders convert to thoroughbred racing to encourage the investment in the thoroughbred industry, raise racing purses to lure more breeders to Florida, and "create a competitive atmosphere with these facilities coming on line."
The bill also reduces the annual permit fee for the Miami Dade and Broward tracks that operate slot machines from $3 million to $2 million, with the lost $7 million coming from the additional money coming from the $140 million, he said. The parimutuels currently generate $133 million a year in cash for the state.
The House expands the hours allowed at the South Florida casino poker rooms, raises the betting limits on poker from $5 to $50 on standard games and $100 to $1,000 on Texas hold ‘em to make the games more profitable and involve more participants, Galvano said. The South Florida casinos will also be allowed to operate no-limit poker tournaments, like the Seminole Tribe, with the money going to charity.
The House bill remains drastically different from the Senate, which expands gambling by giving the tribe full casinos, gives Miami-Dade and Broward casinos blackjack and offers bingo-style slot machines at all other parimutuels. The House not only doesn't give the tribe new games it takes away the blackjack offerings they won under the now invalid compact they negotiated with the governor.
"I don't see that there is a whole lot of room'' for compromise, Galvano said Wednesday. "It's really a challenge. The parimutuels said they would invest in Florida but for a stifling tax rate. We're saying if you're willing to do that, we expect a minimum payment. Equity is about two sides of the scale. While the Senate is tryimg to reach equity by adding games, we're helping the pairmutuels by taking games from the Seminoles at the other side of the scale."
Here's the House bill: Download House Gamble Bill