Internet cafes' loss may be parimutuels' gain: Florida legislators to ponder moving games

April 2, 2013 

As the Florida Senate appears ready to outlaw the electronic slot machine-like games offered by Internet cafes, adult arcades and maquinita operators in Florida, there is talk that the machines will be resurrected next year.

Sen. John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said Tuesday that he would like to consider allowing the machines to be operated at the dog tracks, horse traces and jai alai frontons throughout the state, which are currently regulated and paying taxes.

“As long as they’re regulated in the pari-mutuel facilities that’s something for us to talk about. I’ve always said if we are going to allow any expansion of gaming – which I’m not really for – the existing authorized, legitimate are where we should do it,” he said.

Las Vegas-style slot machines are currently only allowed in the six parimutuel faciliites Miami Dade and Broward but in 2011 Thrasher proposed an amendment to a bill in the final hours of the legislative session that would have allowed the Jacksonsville greyhound track in his district to operate a copycat version, known as video lottery terminals, that allow players to play against each other, not the house. The amendment nearly derailed the end of session, but it didn't pass.

Now, Thrasher says, when the Florida Legislature returns next year to take a comprehensive look at the state's gambling laws, the issue should return. The House and Senate have set up select committees to study gaming regulation and come up with a proposal next year. The Senate committee is chaired by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and the House's is chaired by Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill.

“I suspect that when Sen. Richter does his deal next year that some of the pari-mutuels will come in and say ‘let us do it’ because we’re paying taxes – a high rate of taxes,'' he said.

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