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Politics / Issues

It’s A Good Bet The State’s Gaming Climate Could Change

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Ted Murphy

Odds are good for a gaming shake up this session. The first bill has passed out of the Senate. It’s a measure relating to greyhound racing. Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering a massive gaming overhaul bill in the House.

A portion of the state’s gaming agreement with the Seminole Indians granting them exclusive rights to card games like blackjack is set to expire. And House Majority leader Dana Young (R-Tampa) says she wants to be sure lawmakers have alternatives to consider while deciding whether to renew that part of the compact.

“It is incumbent on us to challenge or at least examine the status quo and determine whether the current course is in the best interest of Florida. The best decision making comes with knowledge,” Young says.

Young says it doesn’t make sense for lawmakers to discuss gaming issue by issue. She’s sponsoring a 300- page bill that she says is meant to tackle all the angles and all the issues at once. One major move the measure makes it to pave the way for two destination resort casinos in Broward and Miami Dade Counties. That combines what Young calls an “unprecedented contraction” of gaming by requiring resort licensees to buy up licenses from other smaller existing casinos.

But while lawmakers are signaling they’re willing to let the Seminole compact expire. The tribe is fighting back through an ad touting the revenue Florida gets each year from the agreement.

Meanwhile in the Senate, lawmakers approved the first bill to pass the full chamber this session. It would increase transparency and require better reporting of the injuries greyhounds sustain while racing.

The measure is named after Victoria Gaetz, the wife of former Senate President Don Gaetz. It passed the Senate unanimously with 38 members signing on as co-sponsors. Representative Young’s bill back in the House takes the idea a step further. It would de-couple greyhound racing – meaning pari-mutuel facilities would no longer be required to hold a certain number of races in order to continue their other gaming activities.

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