Senate committee approves pari-mutuel friendly change to casino bill
Lobbyists, their staffs, business organizations, and groups for and against casino gambling pack a Senate hearing Monday in Tallahassee. Photo by Scott Keeler, Times
Bowing to the pressures of the state’s existing gambling industry, a Senate committee voted 7-3 Monday to bring destination resort casinos to Florida but only after allowing competing pari-mutuels to operate as full casinos with no additional investment or voter approval.
The amendment, added on a 7-3 vote over the objections of the sponsor Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, would give South Florida’s pari-mutuels the same casino games and tax rates as the destination resort casinos if voters approve the destination resort.
The change, if it remains on the measure, could serve as the poison pill to doom the bill, especially in the gaming adverse House where the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Erik Fresen, said the plan will succeed only if the bill results in limiting, not expanding, gaming.
The pari-mutuel amendment was added to Bogdanoff’s 170-page bill by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness and Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton.
Bogdanoff said the change will subject the casinos at pari-mutuels to lighter regulation than those required of the destination resorts.
The goal, Dean said, was to give all South Florida pari-mutuels teh same full casino games and tax rates as the destination resort casinos without requiring an additional voter referendum anregardless of a referendum and with no additional invesmtnet and the amendment describe it as “limited gaming.”