Florida’s latest gambling proposals boiled down to this in a debate Friday: Is the creation of comprehensive gambling regulation in Florida worth three new South Florida mega-casinos that go with it?
State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and state Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who introduced gambling legislation last month, told the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida their aim is better controlling the state’s pari-mutuel facilities, slots “racinos” and Internet cafes.
“We have grown to the fourth-largest gaming state in the nation. What this bill does, for the first time, is address it (gambling) from a strategic vision standpoint. It harnesses it; it controls it; and it hopefully reduces it,” Bogdanoff said.
HB 487 and SB 710 would create a powerful Department of Gaming Control and a State Gaming Commission -- but also allow three huge new casinos in South Florida.
Former state Sen. Dan Gelber and political consultant John Sowinski, leaders of No Casinos Inc., argued that those “destination casinos” would not only expand gambling but also have social consequences including more addicted gamblers, more family financial woes and more public corruption.
The day before the Tiger Bay Club meeting, the chairman of the Seminole Tribe vowed to oppose any effort to bring resort casinos to Florida because they would end the tribe’s gambling monopoly and breach its revenue-sharing agreement with the state.
“We will vigorously fight against any attack on our compact with the state,” said James Billie, the chairman of the Broward-based Seminole Tribe. “We urge Florida legislators to step forward in support of our compact and refuse to pass any legislation that violates contractual agreements with the Seminole Tribe.”
In 2010, the state entered into a compact with the Seminoles that gives the tribe the exclusive right to operate Las Vegas-style slot machines and table games such as baccarat and blackjack in Miami-Dade and Broward counties as well as exclusive rights to operate table games and slots at tribal facilities outside the two counties.
In exchange, the tribe agreed to pay the state at least $1 billion over five years, beginning with two $150 million payments and increasing to $233 million in 2012. In the fifth year, the state must renegotiate with the tribe over the table games.
Mary Ellen Klas of the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.