News from Tallahassee for 4/1/15

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Push for resort casinos stalls in Florida Legislature posted on 3/27/15

by GARY FINEOUT | AP

slot machinesThe push to bring Las Vegas-resort-style casinos to South Florida is stalling again this year as the Florida Legislature remains divided over what type of gambling to allow in the state.

A major gambling bill (HB 1233) sponsored by a top House Republican that includes the casino proposal has yet to be voted on — and it may not get its first vote until sometime in April. The 60-day session ends May 1.

A House panel held a four-hour workshop Thursday on gambling. It was clear that steep divisions remain between casino backers, dog-track and horse-track owners and business groups opposed to gambling. Three years ago, a bill allowing casinos was rejected.

Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa and sponsor of the casino bill, tried to downplay the lack of movement, suggesting that "gaming bills never come up until the last couple of days of session."

Young's proposal would upend Florida's entire gambling industry. It calls for allowing two massive casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. But it would also let dog tracks end live greyhound racing and keep other types of gambling, including poker rooms. The legislation would allow slot machines to be installed at tracks located in Palm Beach and Lee counties.

Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, said that a large majority of House members oppose the sweeping bill. He said if it was put before the entire House right now "it would be torn to shreds."

The Senate, meanwhile, has not considered any major gambling bills.

Republicans in that chamber are focusing more on striking a new deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The tribe runs several casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino just outside of Tampa.

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Seminole Tribe says no progress on compact as Legislature 'postures' posted on 3/19/15

by Mary Ellen Klas | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

The Florida Seminole Tribe is on the defensive.

After five years of quietly writing a monthly check to the state as part of the landmark gaming compact that gave them the exclusive right to operate black jack, chemin de fer and baccarat at their Hard Rock casinos, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature have sent a signal that they may not renew the deal when that portion of their agreement expires in July.

In an effort to make the case to continue the deal that drew at least $1 billion in revenue for the state over five years, the Tribe has broken its silence.

In the last month, it paid for a statewide television ad, espousing the value of the gaming compact. It financed a statewide poll, that showed that most voters support continuing the gaming compact. It launched a lobbying campaign to “educate” legislators about why provisions in the compact stifle the gaming “creep” that happens when states allow non-tribal gaming to expand.

And on Wednesday, the tribe’s general counsel and chief executive agreed to a rare on-the-record interview with the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau and the News Service of Florida.

“We want to see if there is a way to extend the contract before it expires. We’re still early in the game,'' said Seminole General Counsel Jim Shore. "We’re trying to figure out where everybody is on the compact or gaming issue.”

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Seminole Survey Claims Voters Want Gaming Compact Extended posted on 3/17/15

by regan mccarthy | wfsu

Florida voters want the Seminole gaming compact to continue. That’s according to a poll released by the Seminole Tribe of Florida Monday. The study comes as lawmakers consider allowing a piece of the state’s gaming agreement with the tribe to expire.

In a few months, an agreement that gives the Seminole tribe exclusive rights to conduct bank card games like Black Jack expires. Officials have the option to renegotiate that piece of the compact, but legislative leaders are indicating they might just let it expire, despite the revenue cut the state would take as a result. But Neil Newhouse with the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies says 62 percent of Florida voters think the governor should review the compact.

Senate passes bill on reporting of racing dog injuries posted on 3/4/15

by JAMES L. ROSICA | Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate on Tuesday passed its first bill (SB 2) of the 2015 legislative session, a measure that requires the reporting of racing greyhound injuries.

Senators approved the bill on a 38-0 vote.

Florida and Alabama are the last two states that do not mandate racing-dog injury reporting.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood, said 11,722 injuries to racing greyhounds have been reported across the country since 2008.

Those injuries include more than 3,000 broken legs, she added. Another 909 dogs died.

According to the ASPCA, dog racing tracks remain in operation in seven states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Texas and West Virginia.

Sobel blamed the state’s requirement that tracks continue to offer live racing so they can have more profitable slot machines and card rooms, calling dog racing “a barbaric sport.”

The bill was immediately sent to the House, where it died last year.

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House Gambling Bill Includes Casinos, More Slots - Not For Seminoles posted on 3/3/15

by dara kam | news service of florida

Two Las Vegas-style casinos, greyhound tracks without dog racing and slot machines at two pari-mutuels outside South Florida are all on the table in a sweeping House proposal released Monday.

A statewide commission to oversee the gambling industry is also part of a 316-page bill made public by the proposal's sponsor, House Majority Leader Dana Young, a day before the 2015 legislative session begins.

But what's left out of the bill may speak louder to some people than the goodies included for pari-mutuels and out-of-state casino operators eager to establish a footprint in Florida.

The proposal includes nothing about the Seminole Indians, whose five-year deal with the state giving the tribe exclusive rights to offer banked card games such as blackjack at most of its facilities dries up in mid-July unless the Legislature reauthorizes or redraws the agreement, called a "compact." The card games are a portion of a larger, 20-year deal granting the tribe the ability to have slot machines at its nine casinos across the state.

Bills that would have opened the door for "destination resorts" --- casinos with hotels, retail and convention space --- have failed to gain traction in the Legislature in previous years, even after lawmakers spent $400,000 on a gambling study.

The sweeping proposal offered Monday by one of the House's most-powerful Republicans comes in sharp contrast to the past, when conservative members in the heretofore gambling-leery House have consistently balked at any gambling expansion.

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