News from Tallahassee for 8/31/15

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Florida gambling regulators make concessions to industry posted on 7/30/15

by dara kam | news service of florida

Florida gambling regulators have backed down on a number of proposed changes to the state’s pari-mutuel rules after a legislative oversight panel and industry representatives challenged the Department of Business and Professional Regulations’ authority to issue the mandates.

The agency’s Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering on Tuesday published the latest modifications, which deal with issues such as jockey requirements, track sizes and jai alai frontons. The division folded on a number of issues raised by industry operators at a hearing last week.

But the proposal may not go far enough to prevent legal challenges.

The proposed rule changes were originally published last month, but the revised version includes a number of concessions to the controversial barrel-racing industry. Gambling regulators in 2011 granted a pari-mutuel license to Gretna Racing in Gadsden County for the rodeo-style matches, which, in turn, allowed the facility open a more lucrative card room. An appeals court later ruled that the state erred in granting the barrel-racing license —- the first of its kind in the nation. The state and Gretna Racing entered a settlement agreement authorizing “flag drop” races in which two riders compete against each other but without any obstacles in the arena.

Tuesday’s changes do away with a requirement in the original proposed rule that would have forced all tracks to have starting gates, an expensive addition that Donna Blanton, a lawyer for the association representing the barrel racers, at last week’s meeting said was too .

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Seminole Tribe Of Florida Pleas For Renewal Of Card Game Agreement posted on 5/5/15

by gina jordan | WLRN

The Seminole Tribe of Florida wants to keep its exclusive rights to blackjack and other banked card games, but the Legislature's abrupt adjournment this year might have dealt the tribe a bad hand.

Florida House and Senate leaders were talking with tribal lawyers about a renewal. Then, the House suddenly adjourned three days before the official end of the legislative session because of a budget stalemate.

The current agreement with the tribe covers five Indian casinos and gives the state at least $1 billion in payments over five years. The deal expires at the end of July.

So, the tribe sent a letter to lawmakers citing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The federal law requires the state to negotiate with the tribe in good faith.

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Florida Senator: Gaming bill in trouble as compact talks resume posted on 4/23/15

by Mary Ellen Klas | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Senate Regulated Industry Committee Chairman Sen. Rob Bradley said Wednesday that discussions with the Seminole Tribe and the Senate are underway over the resolution of the portion of the gaming compact with the state.

But "there is such a large distance between the two parties” that he expects it “will be very difficult to come to a meeting of the minds” before the session ends on May 1. The casualty, he said, is likely to be passage of any gaming bill this session.

“The Senate’s position has been consistent, we think when it comes to gaming you deal with the compact first and then deal with these other issues,'' he told the Herald/Times. "We are not going to recommend to our members a deal that doesn’t make sense for the people of the State of Florida.

"Until we arrive at a situation with our negotiations with the Tribe, where we have such a deal, then we’re not going to move forward."

That could mean that any attempt by the House to schedule passage of its sweeping gaming bill, HB 1233, could be in trouble. Or it could mean that the chilled relations between the chambers over the budget and health care impasse are also interfering with progress on other priority bills. In other words, is it posturing?

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Lawmakers Keeping Arcades Open, But Some Worry About Future Of Bingo posted on 4/21/15

by regan mccarthy | wfsu

Florida Seniors are sending a clear message – hands off my Bingo. Lawmakers working to balance that while trying to fix a bill that created a grey area for arcade games without reopening a loophole that allowed gambling through internet cafes.

When lawmakers hear Rep. Jay Trumbull’s (R-Panama City) amusement game bill they’ve got one question.

How will this affect Bingo?

Lawmakers who come from areas with large senior populations are worried about the impact the measure could have on Bingo halls. Michael Wolf from the Florida Arcade and Bingo Association told lawmakers in an earlier Senate committee the plan could wipe some Bingo places out. He says the measure defines what’s not an amusement game and includes video depictions of Bingo.

“When law enforcement sees that they says ‘not amusement machines, therefore illegal slot machines,” Wolf says.

Wolf says law enforcement officers are already raising concerns about an electronic device used by some bingo halls called a bingo minder. It helps players keep track of their bingo cards and electronically marks the cards for them when the numbers get called.

But Trumbull says the House version of the bill doesn’t change current Bingo law.

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Florida House Passes Dave & Buster's Bill posted on 4/20/15

by gina jordan | WLRN

It’s been two years since Florida passed a law shutting down Internet cafes. Now, the Florida House has approved a bill clarifying that family-friendly amusement centers are perfectly legal, and the Senate version is also close to a vote.

The state was in a hurry to get rid of Internet cafes. The storefront shops were multiplying rapidly because many of them were getting away with illegal slot machine gambling.

But other businesses got swept into the law, like senior arcades, and some larger companies questioned whether they were suddenly law breakers.

So, Representative Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) sponsored a bill to alleviate the problem.

House Bill 641 makes changes to update and clarify the law so that businesses who offer skill based amusement games like Chuck E. Cheese, Family Amusement Centers, and Dave & Buster’s are able to continue to operate without fear of running afoul of the 2013 law,” Trumbull told the House.

Representative Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) says the new bill should reassure those companies because it spells out the kind of amusement games and machines that are allowed and how they should be operated.

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