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Bill Galvano Please With Brand New House Gaming Compact

A plan approved on April 13th, 2009 would help pari-mutuel establishments like the Sarasota Kennel Club to become more economically competitive through extended gaming hours and bigger betting limits, while those that are currently offering slot machines would enjoy reduced taxes, according to Florida officials. A Florida House committee voted in favor of the gaming proposal that will allow Florida pari-mutuels more flexibility so they might compete better with casino facilities, according to Representative Bill Galvano, R-Brandon.

Galvano said that they are very happy that they have moved the bill beyond the committee, saying that it would come to the House floor for a vote later this week. Galvano said that they are ready to continue negotiations with the Senate. The gaming plan extends the hours of operation for card room from twelve hours to twenty-four hours; it increases betting limits from $5 to $50 per wager and the buy-in cost for no limit Texas Holdem from $100 to $1,000, according to the summary of the proposal.

Galvano, the leader of the House Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review said that the gaming plan addressing Florida's twenty-seven pari-mutuels is linked to a proposed gaming agreement with the Seminole Tribe. Under the House proposal, pari-mutuels are required to pay Florida a minimum of $140 million in revenue, with the tribe contributing another $270 million in the first year, for a total of $410 million year without full gaming expansion.

The Sarasota club might shut down if Florida approves an agreement that puts it an economic disadvantage. But with the financial crisis depleting the common sources of state revenue, lawmakers say that modifications in gaming laws would add millions of dollars annually.

The House gaming proposal would also remove some restrictions on racing track pari-mutuels, allowing tracks offering racing quarter horses to convert to thoroughbred horse racing if they could fulfill certain requirements. The House gaming plan also calls for slashing the existing tax rate from fifty to thirty-six percent with the smaller rate connected to minimum yearly payment for 3 pari-mutuel businesses in South Florida that already offers slot machines. The proposal also lower slot license fees from $3 million to $2 million. But the proposal blocks expansion of slot machines, blackjack and baccarat anywhere in the state.

A new compact could produce $2 billion in tribal facility construction in Florida, with 29,000 new employment opportunities connected with the casino business, according to a legislative analysis of the gaming proposal. But pari-mutuel facilities would be affected with increase competition and other leisure markets like lodging and restaurants. Resorts and convention facilities would experience a total loss of $100 million as a result of stiff competition from tribal activities.

Lawmakers are studying a 2007 gaming agreement between Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe, which manages a casino facility in Tampa, forty miles north of Manatee County. That gaming agreement allows the Seminole tribe offer games like baccarat but it was cancelled by the state Supreme Court on grounds that Governor Crist should have consulted with the legislature first.

The Legislature's two Houses are pushing for two different gaming proposals. The House gaming proposal version would strip tribal casino of the opportunity to manage games like baccarat and blackjack but approved exclusive rights to offer slot machines in Florida counties that currently do not offer them. The Senate gaming plan would preserve the terms of the compact in addition to new games like craps and roulette and card game for pari-mutuels and video lotteries all over Florida.


Sunday, April 19, 2009
Kate Foster

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