News By Industry
News from Tallahassee for 12/6/13
Weatherford considers voter input on expanded gambling posted on 12/3/13
by DARA KAM | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE – House Speaker Will Weatherford is developing a new plan that could provide cover for Republican House members reluctant to expand gambling as the Legislature takes up the thorny issue during the upcoming session.
Weatherford wants to put a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would let voters decide if they should weigh in on the expansion of gambling.
The proposal, still being developed, would set in stone any changes lawmakers agree to during the 2014 session and require statewide approval of any future gambling expansion. The proposal would require 60 percent approval by voters to pass.
Weatherford said it’s part of the “holistic look at gaming” the Legislature is undertaking that includes a swath of issues from casino-style resorts to blackjack at South Florida tracks to getting rid of greyhound racing.
As lawmakers consider reforms, gaming interests up the ante on campaign cash posted on 11/18/13
by Matt Dixon | Florida Times-Union
TALLAHASSEE— With lawmakers mulling several options to overhaul Florida’s gaming system, campaign contributions from casinos, dog tracks, gaming opponents, and Indian tribes have flooded the political process.
During the first 11 months of the 2014 election cycle, gaming interests have given $2.8 million to candidates and political committees. That doubles the $1.4 million the industry had given at this point through the 2012 election cycle, according to campaign finance records.
An election cycle includes two years. For instance, the 2012 cycle includes contributions given in 2011 through election day.
Though no action is guaranteed, legislative committees are planning to consider some type of gaming reform during this spring’s session. The Legislature has paid $400,000 for a three-part gaming study, and a Senate panel is conducting public hearings across the state to get input.
The biggest single gaming-related donor so far is the Seminole Tribe of Florida, at $919,994, with 81 percent of that to the Republican Party of Florida or a fundraising committee supporting Gov. Rick Scott.
Through this point during the 2012 cycle, the tribe had given $11,730. That number increased to $1 million by Election Day.
The Legislature may consider renegotiating the tribe’s 20-year compact as part of its overall gaming reforms. The portion of the compact that covers “banked card” games like blackjack and baccarat is set to expire in 2015. Under the compact, the tribe can operate those games at three of its seven casinos.
When asked about its increased campaign cash, a spokesman said, “the tribe doesn’t comment on political strategy.”
Another aspect being considered by lawmakers is the approval of Las Vegas-style casinos often referred to as “destination resorts.” In 2012, lawmakers killed a proposal to approve the mega-casinos in South Florida, but proponents are back.
Casinos, sugar, remain biggest spenders on lobbying posted on 11/15/13
by Aaron Deslatte | Orlando Sentinel
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's telecommunication, gaming, and sugar industries continued to lead the way in spending on lobbyists in Tallahassee over the summer, new reports show.
U.S. Sugar Corp., the South Florida agricultural giant, poured approximately $245,000 into lobbying the Florida Legislature between July and September -- and spent another $195,000 on executive branch lobbying. The company helped push last session a sweeping Everglades cleanup bill and devoted $70 million to the effort. Lawmakers also cemented Cabinet-approved 30-year leases on 14,000 acres of sugar cane and ag land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to stave off potential legal challenges from environmental groups over sugar-growers' land-lease terms.
U.S. Sugar led the way in executive branch spending, and came in second in legislative lobbying expenses to AT&T, which spent around $340,000 to lobby lawmakers and another $190,000 to lobby Gov. Rick Scott's office and state agencies. AT&T is pushing to eliminate a communications services tax.
Then there are the casinos.
The Top-25 companies paying lobbyists to bend the ears of policymakers are littered with gambling interests, including: the Seminole Tribe of Florida (with $182,000 spent on legislative lobbying); Las Vegas Sands Casinos ($100,000); Isle of Capri Casinos ($75,000); Hartman & Tyner ($70,000); and Resorts World Miami, the downtown Miami branch of Genting ($65,000).
Florida gaming expansion goes bust posted on 11/15/13
by Carlton Proctor | Pensacola News-Journal
Concerns about increased crime, corruption, addiction and poverty often associated with gambling dominated a Florida Senate public hearing Thursday in Pensacola.
Chaired by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, the Senate Committee on Gaming’s public hearing, the third of four scheduled in the state, attracted about 100 people to Pensacola State College.
And a sizable majority of the nearly 40 speakers appearing before the committee adamantly opposed any expansion of Florida’s gaming industry or its laws.
But the senate panel also heard from several speakers making a case for more casinos, and for the expansion of current gaming laws to include slot machines at parimutuel betting facilities.
Among the most prominent local officials speaking out against expanding gaming laws were Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan and Assistant State Attorney Russ Edgar.
Morgan, who said he was representing the Florida Sheriff’s Association, said the organization is opposed to any expansion of gaming industry in Florida.
“Study after study ... shows that for every dollar we get from gambling, we spend approximately $10 of taxpayer money in solving those long-term problems brought to our communities by the gaming industry.
“It’s the carnage that we have to deal with,” Morgan said.
Supreme Court hears Mardi Gras casino case posted on 11/14/13
by JESSE J. HOLLAND | AP
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court seemed unlikely Wednesday to declare invalid a pre-organizing agreement between a union and a South Florida casino that had the business helping the union organize in return for help with a ballot initiative.
Justices heard from UNITE HERE Local 355, which wants overturned a decision saying its agreement with Hollywood Greyhound Track, Inc., also known as Mardi Gras Gaming, could be illegal.
The union agreed with the company to help win a gambling ballot initiative legalizing slot machines at racetracks, and agreed not to picket, boycott, or strike. Mardi Gras officials agreed to give the union employee addresses, access to the facility and not ask for a secret ballot election on unionizing.
An employee, Martin Mulhall, then sued, saying that the agreement violated national labor laws, which say companies cannot give unions that want to represent employees something of value.
A federal judge threw out Mulhall’s complaint, but that decision was overturned by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the actions of the company, including giving the union names of employees, were “things of value” and thus could violate the labor laws.
But several justices seemed worried about the implications of that argument. For example, Justice Elena Kagan said that the argument from Mulhall’s lawyer, William L. Messenger, could mean that employers would never be able to do simple things like invite union representatives on their property to talk to their employees without running afoul of the law.
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