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State Lawmakers Hear From Gaming Industry

Photo: Miami Herald
Photo: Miami Herald

January 23, 2013 | WMFE - The state legislature has vowed to take a year off from passing any major gambling legislation. But, even though they are not planning to pass any bills in the upcoming session, they are hearing from representatives of the gaming industry.

The industry wants to eventually expand casino gambling in the Sunshine State and they spoke with lawmakers about the impact of gaming on Florida's economy.

Lawmakers are reviewing all types of gambling in Florida and discussing how they’re regulated.  The review by the Senate Gaming Committee includes the Florida Lottery, pari-mutuels, such as horse and dog racing tracks, and casinos.

Don Mitchell, with Isle of Capri Casinos, was glad to hear that internet cafes will also be part of the discussion. 

“That is part of the gaming industry and they just shouldn’t be gray in our view.” Mitchell said. “It should either be illegal and not exist or it should be legal and they should be regulated and licensed and taxed the same as we are as part of the industry.”

Cari Roth is a lobbyist for the Tampa Bay Downs Thoroughbred racetrack. She wants to be able to compete against establishments like the nearby Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

“In 2008, of course, the Seminoles were authorized to open the casino there in Tampa just across the bay.” Roth said. “They have slots and bank card games.” 

A proposal to open three mega resort casinos in South Florida was postponed last year but will likely be back in 2014.

Supporters say the industry could bring billions in additional tourism dollars into the state and they say, Florida needs to offer gaming as an entertainment option to remain competitive with other states where it’s available.

But Miami Senator Gwen Margolis disputed the supporter’s claims. Margolis grew up in Atlantic City and says gambling had a negative impact there.

“It sucked every business up into the casinos and put row after row after row of stores and people on the Boardwalk out of business.” Margolis said. 

The Legislature is working toward a policy that will regulate all forms of gaming in the state and possibly expand it.

Lawmakers say they plan to hold public hearings around the state this summer before revisiting the issue during the 2014 legislative session.



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