Make us your home page

Casino bill faces resistance in normally friendly Senate committee

TALLAHASSEE — The Senate sponsor of a bill to bring destination resort casinos to South Florida faced a hostile first committee Wednesday even as economists came up with a new projection that shows the project will bring the state a windfall of between $327 million and $455 million in new revenue.

A majority of the members of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, traditionally a welcome place for casino expansion legislation, told Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff they would like to see significant changes to the bill before they agree to support it.

Bogdanoff, for the first time, outlined the changes she is willing to make to strengthen support for the measure that would allow for three $2 billion resort casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. And legislative economist Amy Baker detailed the first independent economic analysis she has done of the proposed bill.

Baker said that if the bill becomes law, three resort casinos could generate $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion in annual gaming each year, starting in 2016.

It is based on annual visitors streaming to the resorts, ranging from 6.6 million to 14 million. She predicts that it will result in the annual loss of up to $250 million in revenue from the Seminole gaming compact but be offset by about $172 million to $206 million in one-time sales tax revenues from construction and annual tax revenues of between $127 million to $255 million.

A major negative impact will be the cannibalization of the games from the existing parimutuel industry, Baker said. She estimates that 31 percent of the new gaming will come at the expense of the existing casinos — two-thirds of it from the Seminole Hard Rock casinos and 34 percent from Miami-Dade and Broward's slot casinos. But weighing all the changes, Baker said, by 2016 the net benefit to the state will be between $327.5 million and $455 million.

Bogdanoff, however, said her goal is not to produce an economic benefit to the state but instead to end the patchwork of gambling regulations and replace predatory gaming with gambling intended to draw high-end clients.

Among the changes Bogdanoff said she will introduce before the bill comes up for a vote the first week of the legislative session in January are:

• Give the South Florida parimutuels the same full-casino games but tax them, at the same rate as the resort casinos, only after they increase the investment. For example, the parimutuels would be given a tax rate of 35 percent on slot machines and 45 percent for all other casino games, but that rate could be lowered based on the dollar value of new investment, she said.

• Increase the application fee from $25 million to $125 million, in an attempt to backstop the drop in revenue from the Indian gaming compact and buy out existing parimutuel permits for facilities willing to close down.

• Transfer control of the Department of the Lottery to the proposed Gaming Control Commission — a move that was greeted by significant opposition by members of the committee.

Her changes are designed to win over reluctant lawmakers, such as Democrats Nan Rich of Weston and Maria Sachs from Delray Beach, and Republican Charlie Dean of Inverness, who each said they wanted to see stronger protections for existing parimutuels.

Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, chairman of the committee, said he wanted to see a higher tax rate — of about 25 percent — for the casino games and wanted the headquarters of the Gaming Control Commission to be in Tallahassee instead of South Florida.

Sen. John Thrasher, a Jacksonville Republican and former House speaker, wants to close the loopholes in existing law that have allowed strip mall Internet cafes to operate as sweepstakes games and barrel racing in North Florida to become a parimutuel competition, but opposes the bill.

"I think this legislation is a major change in the culture and brand of the state of Florida and, frankly, I think it expands gambling to the point where I'm concerned about it,'' he said.

Casino bill faces resistance in normally friendly Senate committee 12/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 11:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
  2. Make-A-Wish Foundation aims to help more kids in Tampa Bay


    The Make-A-Wish Foundation is on the lookout for sick children in the Tampa Bay area who need a once-in-a-lifetime pick-me-up.

    Grace Savage, a 10-year-old girl with a chromosomal disorder made a trek to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last year, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation intends to beef up its presence in the Tampa Bay area after a reorganization. The region is now the responsibility of the foundation's Southern Florida chapter, one of the most active in the country, with more than 11,000 wishes granted so far. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times ]
  3. Florida hides details in nursing home reports. Federal agencies don't.


    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott widened his offensive Thursday against the Broward nursing home he blames for the deaths of 10 residents by setting up a tip line for information, but when it comes to access to the inspection reports of all nursing homes, the governor's administration has heavily censored what the …

    In the foreground is a document detailing the findings of a Feb. 2016 inspection at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills obtained from a federal agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Behind it is the state?€™s version of the same document, from the Agency for Health Care Administration, showing how it has been redacted before being released to the public. [Miami Herald]
  4. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  5. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]