01/10/2012 : Regulation of internet cafes still in measure as it passes Senate committee
Florida Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff's proposal to allow three land resort casinos to open in Florida, which also carries provisions for the regulation of online gambling in internet cafes moved forward Monday when it was approved 7 to 3 by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.
The approval came at a price; state politicians attached an amendment that allows pari-mutuels the same games and tax rates as land casinos.
The passage of the controversial bill was its first major test in the Florida Legislature.
Several prominent local political observers opined that the inclusion of the pari-mutuel amendment, and the de facto expansion of land gambling that it represents, could be a double-edged sword, creating additional opposition to the measure by anti-gambling factions as it moves through the Legislature.
If the bill remains as it is, pari-mutuels will pay the same 10 percent tax rate that would be paid by the new resort casinos. Pari-mutuels outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties would also be allowed to introduce slot machines if county voters approve.
The pari-mutuel amendment was added to Bogdanoff’s 170-page bill by Republican Party Senator Charlie Dean and Democratic Party Senator Maria Sachs, and overturned Bogdanoff's original plan to require the pari-mutuels to invest at least $125 million in order to win a casino permit.
The bill proposes the creation of a new state agency to regulate all gambling, and a state Gaming Control Commission to authorise casino permits and enforce strict new regulations for casino operators.
Despite victory in attaching his amendment, Senator Dean voted against the bill itself. “I support the industry and the license-holders in this state,” he said. “I think we’re reaching way too far and are in too big a hurry.”
Bogdanoff argued that the amended bill would reduce predatory gambling in Florida by calling a halt to new pari-mutuel permits and regulating of Internet cafes and maquinitas – online slot rooms that have proliferated in strip shopping centers through a loophole state law.
Those who spoke against the measure included the Florida Sheriffs’ Association; John Sowinski of No Casinos – the Disney-backed opposition; the Florida Attractions Association; the Southwest Florida Casino Watch; the Florida Chamber of Commerce; and the Florida Baptist Convention.