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Fresen says casino bill is 'dead for the year'

Rep. Erik Fresen, who had been meeting with members for days to rustle up the votes, was resigned to the fact that the effort to pass a resort casino bill is done.

"I think it's dead for the year in the House,'' he told reporters after pulling his bill before the House Business and Community Affairs Committee could vote. "Adding, I can't speak for the Senate.''

He said he wasn't disappointed, in part because he never expected the bill would be easy to pass in the conservative House.

"To be disappointed would be that I had expectations of incredible victory on this bill,'' he said. 

To revive the bill in the remaining four weeks of session would take a long shot: the House would have to agree to take up and pass a Senate bill. The current Senate plan to give Las Vegas-style casinos to every pari-mutuel in the state, however, is widely believed to never stand a chance in the more conservative House. 

Fresen said the debate in the House was shrouded by the special interests on both sides and he regrets it could mean the end to the debate over how to better regulate the industry.

"We got further with the first real conversation,'' he said. "It's the first bill that would have a significant real reduction in the overall gambling options in the State of Florida while opening up the opporutnity to unbelievable economic development in Miami Dade and Broward counties."

He said he believes the public has shifted is views on gambling. "It’s no longer the bogeyman I don’t know,'' he said. "It’s here and most Floridians have touched it, seen it felt it and, done the right way, it’s not going to have the negative effects people expect."

He wouldn't make any predictions on whether he would bring the bill back next year but warned that attempts to tighten regulations alone, won't work without some trade-off given to the industry.

"There's nothing that I have seen in this building over the last 10 years that would indicate to me that any stand alone-bill constricting gaming…without redirecting some opportunity…is going to pass,'' he said.