Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senate bills would expand gambling while adding new regulations

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate on Monday unveiled proposals that would bring casino resorts to Miami-Dade and Broward counties and expand gambling statewide with one new wrinkle: The gaming industry would be subject to new regulations.

In addition to the casino resorts, slot machines would be allowed around the state, dog tracks could race fewer dogs, greyhound injuries would be reported — and all of this could happen without voter approval.

The Senate proposals, contained in three separate bills, are the product of nearly a year of study and more than $400,000 in taxpayer money spent to review the economic and revenue impact of bringing casino resorts to Florida.

But the ideas face steep resistance from House leaders, incoming Senate leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and even the governor, who may not want the issue on his plate in an election year.

"I thought this would be a very good starting line to have the discussion," Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, told the Times/Herald. "I think the bill is composed of statutes and regulations that have the best interests of Florida in mind."

Richter said the sweeping rewrite is an attempt to "reform the current patchwork of laws into an orderly structure."

He said it is a preliminary plan that will be vetted for weeks when the Legislature begins its two-month session next week.

In addition to licensing two destination casino resorts, the bills also allow for slot machines at dog tracks in Palm Beach and Lee counties and at a rodeo track in Gadsden County.

The measures allow for a reduction in the number of dog races conducted at the state's 13 greyhound tracks and require that track owners and trainers report dog injuries for the first time since the state legalized dog racing 80 years ago.

All of the changes would take effect this year under the plan, but the plan also proposes a constitutional amendment to require voter approval for any additional gambling expansion.

Voters in counties and cities that would host the destination resorts in Miami-Dade and Broward also would have to give their consent.

"It's Christmas in February for out-of-state gambling interests, and their entire wish list can be found in these bills," said John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, an Orlando-based gaming opposition group. "This legislation reeks of gambling interest influence. I have yet to find any major provision that isn't there at the request of somebody in the gambling industry."

Complicating the proposals is the fact that an expansion of gambling in Florida could nullify the state's $230-million-a-year gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, the owner of the Hard Rock Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood and five other casinos in Florida.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he will not accept any gambling expansion unless the governor signs off on it and negotiates a new compact.

But while the governor's staff has met with members of the tribe, it has not met with attorney Barry Richard, who would lead negotiations for the tribe.

Senate bills would expand gambling while adding new regulations 02/24/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 10:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays make Hechavarria trade official

    Blogs

    Here is the release from the team ...

     

  2. Jones: Will Tampa Bay hit a Hall of Fame dry spell now?

    Lightning Strikes

    Marty St. Louis may lack the Hall of Fame stats, but two scoring titles, an MVP award and clutch goals should count for a lot. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
  3. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena

    Tourism

    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  4. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  5. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]