Comparison of House and Senate gambling billsby Dara Kam | February 2nd, 2012
The House released its version of a gambling proposal, slated for its first committee vote tomorrow, that opens the door casinos in what could be a permanent game-changer for Sunshine State tourism.
While both the House and Senate plans would allow up to three high-end “destination resorts” to open, the House proposal would limit them to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where slot machines outside of Indian casinos are already up-and-running thanks to voter approval.
The two plans (HB 487, SB 710) include differences about who could give the casino licenses, who would oversee a new gambling agency and the future of Internet cafés.
- Internet cafés: HB 487 would ban them altogether. SB 710 would regulate them, charge operators $100 per terminal and allow local government to prohibit them.
- Games: SB 710 would allow pari-mutuels in the counties where destination resorts open to offer the same games that the casinos have, meaning dog and horse tracks and jai-alai frontons near the casinos could have blackjack, roulette or craps.
- Voter approval: Both bills would require voters to approve the destination resorts by referendum. But the House version would only allow the casinos to be licensed in Broward or Miami-Dade counties.
- Oversight: HB 487 would give the governor and the Florida Cabinet oversight of a new agency – the Department of Gaming Control. The governor and Cabinet would also choose which casino operators would get resort licenses. SB 710 would create a statewide gambling commission that would oversee the Department of Gaming. The commission would pick the casino vendors.
- Taxes: Both set a 10 percent tax rate for game revenues at the destination resorts and would lower the tax rate on slot machines at pari-mutuels (now 35 percent) in counties where a destination resort opens to 10 percent.
After two workshops, the House Business and Consumer Affairs Committee will vote on the bill tomorrow morning. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff’s version weeks ago but faces an uphill battle at its next stop in opponent John Thrasher’s Rules Committee.