Posted 3/17/11 : Abruzzo bill passes key Senate committee
The Abruzzo bill seeking to legalise intrastate poker in Florida has made it through an important committee stage in the state Legislature, cruising through the Senate Regulated Industries Committee Wednesday on a 10-2 positive vote.
The same bill is also on the agenda of the House committee.
The committee voted 10-2 to create an intrastate Internet poker network tied to the current 23 horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons. Proponents say that if the estimated 800,000 people who now play Internet poker play the intrastate games, it could generate as much as $50 million in additional tax revenue and protect consumers from unscrupulous operators.
"What we have here is a bill that is very carefully crafted," said Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican and sponsor of Abruzzo's SB 812. He said the measure protects consumers by awarding contracts to three hub operators who have never offered illegal Internet poker in Florida.
The passage of the bill could result in the state's pari-mutuels making additional gambling profits, enabling them to remit 10 percent of gross revenue to the state coffers.
"We're protecting Florida consumers from having their identity stolen, from having financial information stolen, from being easy prey from entities that operate offshore," Diaz de la Portilla said.
Republicans from Tampa and Jacksonville voted against the bill.
The committee also passed bill SB1594, a racetrack-related proposal that seeks to allow the state's 16 dog racing tracks to complete their conversion to either card rooms or slot machine venues as the popularity of dog racing declines. The bill removes the requirement enacted in 1996 that dog tracks operate live racing, and is likely to attract opposition, with elements in the dog racing industry claiming it will kill the sector.