Casino Bill May Expand Gaming Commission Over Florida Lottery
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Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said Tuesday she has check with legal counsel to determine if the Florida Gaming Commission -- being designed to close loopholes and regulate existing gaming options -- can also oversee the voter approved Florida lottery.
“We were originally told that the lottery could not go under the gaming commission because of its original structure, but because it is an executive branch agency it probably can,” Bogdanoff said during a media announcement in the Capitol where the Latin Builders Association announced support for the bill.
A workshop on the gaming bills, HB 487 and SB 710, filed by Bogdanoff and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, is scheduled for Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott continued to keep some distance between himself and the gaming bill.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, he said it will be “interesting to see what everyone comes back with.”
“We have gaming in our state, and I don’t want our budget to be tied to gaming,” Scott said. “It’s going to be interesting what the discussion is. The Legislature has to deal with the existing (Seminole) compact. They have to deal with our pari-mutuels.”
State economists sitting on the Revenue Estimating Conference estimated last week that revenue from three high-end resort casinos may not cover the lost annual revenue from the Florida Seminoles and pari-mutuel facilities.
The state’s compact with the Seminole Tribe, which operates seven casinos across the state, would be cut in half or severed depending upon where the casinos are located, according to the conference.
If the casino locations are in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the Seminole contract -- which offers the tribe certain exclusive gaming rights -- remains in place, but the revenue from the tribe diminishes to $96.4 million a year.
However, if any of the casinos land outside Miami-Dade or Broward counties, the entire compact is nullified.
Bogdanoff said the debate shouldn’t be about revenue, but about what is best for the state, which has seen a proliferation of outlets across the state wanting to provide Las Vegas-style slot machines -- through a loophole in state law -- in the past several weeks.
She said the commission, in her eyes, would only be able to follow the mandates of the Legislature, which would have the final say on all new casinos and gaming expansions.
“For years the industry has dictated what gaming is going to look like in the state,” she said. “We can’t do that anymore. They’re here. Do we protect them? Do we give them parity? Do we allow them to expand through clever lawyering, or do we say, 'This is it. This is the strategic vision?'”
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