News from Tallahassee for 4/27/15

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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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House gambling bill clears first hurdle posted on 4/10/15

by JAMES L. ROSICA | Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — The House’s stripped-down version of a gambling overhaul bill (HB 1233) cleared its first committee Thursday but its chances for passage are dwindling as the legislative session draws to a close.

The Regulatory Affairs committee OK’d the measure on a 14-4 vote.

The bill included last-minute amendments that would allow slot machines at the greyhound tracks in Lee and Palm Beach counties and authorize non-binding countywide referendums for any future destination casino resorts.

A provision that would have allowed two such casino resorts in South Florida already had been cut from the bill, sponsored by Rep. Dana Young of Tampa, the House Republican leader.

Young’s measure still must clear two more panels before it can be considered on the House floor – and there’s a competing Senate gambling bill. The session ends May 1.

“I’m taking it one day at a time,” Young said.

Her bill now would create a statewide gambling commission and includes a “decoupling” provision, essentially removing the requirement that dog tracks run live races if they wish to offer other gambling, like slots and card rooms.

It also clamps down on permits for parimutuels – horse and dog tracks – by revoking unused permits, forbidding the issuance of new ones and discontinuing the practice of allowing tracks to swap permits between them.

Young’s bill does not address the Seminole Compact, the 2010 gambling agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida that includes a five-year deal granting the tribe exclusive rights to blackjack in return for a guaranteed minimum payment of $1 billion.

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Turmoil continues over fate of gambling bills posted on 4/9/15

by Mary Ellen Klas | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE— The reliably precarious debate over the future of gambling in Florida continued its uncertain path on Wednesday when a Senate committee voted to end the requirement that horse and dog tracks operate live races and the House revised its gaming bill and excluded destination resort casinos.

But leaders say both plans appear headed for change.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee narrowly approved a series of pro-gaming amendments to SPB 7088 Wednesday that would have extended a portion of the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe for one year. The amendments allow dog tracks in West Palm Beach and Naples to start operating slot machines, require that 10 percent of all slot machine revenues at the new racinos subsidize thoroughbred purses at Tampa Bay Downs, and give all pari-mutuels the option to end live racing.

But the amendments prompted the committee’s chairman, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, to vote against his own bill and predict that it will be modified if it is going to survive in the Senate.

"I would suspect that if we have a gaming bill come out of the Senate, it will look probably a bit different than what you saw come out of this committee today,’’ Bradley said after the meeting.

Meanwhile, House Republican Leader Dana Young released a revamped gaming bill, HB 1233, that shrinks her ambitious 316-page gaming bill to 59 pages and removes all opportunities for gaming expansion in Florida, including the opportunity for Miami-Dade and Broward to offer destination resort casinos.

Young’s scaled-down plan now focuses on a narrow goal of ending the requirement that greyhound tracks operate live racing in order to offer pokers games or slot machines. It also caps pari-mutuel permits and requires tracks that continue to race greyhounds adhere to strict new requirements to report all dog injuries.

But destination resorts may not be dead for the session if an amendment offered by House Rules Chairman and Rep. Rich Workman, R-Melbourne, is approved by the House Regulated Industries Committee at its meeting Thursday.

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