House readies for committee show-down over casino bill
The bill to bring three resort casinos to South Florida gets its first – and possibly only – House hearing as the Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee takes up Rep. Erik Fresen’s long-awaited bill.
Late Wednesday, Fresen released a 146-page amendment to his bill that includes a handful of changes designed to help win support for the effort. His bill imposes a one-time $125 million licensing fee paid for by the resort casinos with the intention of using some of the money to buyout existing horse and dog tracks.
The measure also bans, does not regulate, Internet Cafes and gives the state’s existing slot racinos in Miami Dade and Broward a 10 percent tax rate, as long as they guarantee customers get a 90 percent payout on their slot games.
Photo: Casino supporters on Thursday positioned six mock mannequins throughout the Capitol in an attempt to demonstrate the people who could benefit from the job creation brought by the bill.
A companion bill sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, has passed a Senate committee, but only after it was expanded to allow for full Las Vegas casinos be opened at any of the state’s pari-mutuels.
The effort remains an up-hill battle, however, in a more conservative House.
“I actually don’t think the policy of this is as huge as the politics of it,” he said, adding that he believes that since Florida already has Indian casions and its slot machine racinos and the bill consolidates regulation of them.
“It’s almost like a housekeeping, cleanup bill,’’ Fresen said. “But there is a tremendous amount of money on both sides of the issue so it makes it a hyper-politicized in what otherwise would be a very sound public policy.”
Among the proposals in Fresen’s amendment to HB 487: Download HB 487 Amendment
- Creates the Department of Gaming Control to regulate all gaming, revoke dormant licenses of existing facilities
- Bans all Internet Cafes
- Applicants “must demonstrate” they can “increase tourism, generate jobs, provide revenue to the local economy and provide revenue” to the state general fund.
- $ 1 million nonrefundable application fee; a refundable $125 million one-time licensing fee and a $5 million annual licensing fee
- State may use up to $80 million of the licensing fee to buy back four pari-mutuel facilities that have run live licenses in 2009-10 an 2010-11, including their underlying permits and licenses issued on or before Dec. 31, 2018
- The gaming floor can’t be more than 10 percent of the resort development’s total square footage.
- Applicant must spend at least $2 billion in new development, demonstrate the ability to build a resort of “high caliber with a variety of high-quality amenities” that will “enhance the state’s tourism industry.”
- 40 percent of the decision will be based on management expertise and speed to market, 20 percent will be based on design and location, 30 percent will depend on ability to generate out-of-state visitors and 10 percent on the ability to enhance the local community.
- Construction must begin 12 months after the license is awarded
- The resort casinos companies would pay a surcharge if the state loses slot machine revenues from existing casinos and from the Seminole Tribe; the surcharge would make up the diifference
- Each slot machine would be required to have a payout of at least 90 percent and imposes that requirement on existing slot machine operators if they want the same 10 percent tax rate; parimutuels that payout 85 percent will be required to pay a 35 percent tax rate
- Final deadline for all proposals: July 1, 2017
- The department may decide in which county to locate the casino