Lawmakers give casinos bill first thumbs-upby Dara Kam | January 9th, 2012
A sweeping gambling bill that would allow up to three casinos in Florida passed its first hurdle late Monday with a 7-3 vote in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.
The measure (SB 710) would allow voters in any county to sign off on the “destination resorts” and allow pari-mutuels in to have whatever games the casinos offer, including blackjack and baccarat – if state regulators grant a casino permit in the county. And it would bar any new dog or horse tracks or jai-alai frontons from opening anywhere in the state.
Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the bill’s sponsor, acknowledged that the future of her proposal – dealing with everything from a new gambling commission to the casinos to Internet cafes – is anything but certain.
“Yeah, this is a big lift and there’s a lot of stuff in here. Call it what you want. Call it an expansion. Call it a reform. Call it a redirection…My hope is that we would stop the proliferation of gaming through clever lawyering or loopholes,” Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said before the vote.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos appeared to have fast-tracked the bill – it received its first committee vote the day before the legislative session opened – and said he wants an early floor vote on it. But that may not happen, said Sen. John Thrasher, chairman of the Rules and Calendar Committee, the bill’s final stop before it goes to the full chamber. First, it heads to the Senate Budget committee.
But the House has yet to hold a single hearing on its version, Thrasher pointed out.
“They have not had the first peep over there in terms of listening to the arguments about this bill,” Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said. “I’ve got a feeling that…they’re going to have to show some movement in the House before we take it any further.”