A bill to rewrite the state's gambling laws and open up South Florida to two destination resort casinos, allow racinos to operate without dog racing, and encourage incentives to close parimutuel facilities in other parts of the state was filed today by House Republican Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa.
The measure takes a novel approach to gaming by providing incentives for operators who want to expand -- such as the destination resort operators with eyes on Miami -- to buy out gaming permits in other parts of the state as well as require them to conduct a local referendum.
"I look forward to the spirited discussion and debate,'' she said, in announcing the bill at a press conference today. "The bill provides for an unprecedented contraction of gaming in the state."
This is the year to do this, she said, because of the date to renew the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe occurs this year. If approved, she said it would result in a "significant increase" to the state in gaming revenue.
"Knowledge is important to good decision making,'' she said, by informing legislators of the alternatives they will have a better choice.
The package includes four bills, the main one is HB 1233, which:
* Allow a destination resort casino to operate in Miami or Broward, expanding the footprint for gambling in South Florida and adding new competition for the Seminole Tribe. The casino would have to pay a minimum $175 million tax rate and pass a local referendum.
* Applicants would have to make a minimum capital investment of $2 billion, not including existing investments, and pass "a tremendous amount of requirements,'' she said.
* Only 10 percent of the resort casino must be must be used for the gaming floor.
* Reduce tax rate for racinos from 35 percent of 25 percent.
* Create a system of credits that allow for a destination resort operator to obtain a permit from one or more other parimutuel operators elsewhere.
* Allow Palm Beach and Lee counties to operate slot machines at their dog tracks, or operate stand-alone slot facilities.
* Puts a moratorium on new gambling permits and legislators will consider a constitutional amendment to end future gambling expansions, she said.
* Create a point system that encourages race track owners to close facilities in North Florida in exchange for expanded operations in South Florida. In order to gain a permit in South Florida they must have a net of 5 points obtained by purchasing pari-mutuels in other parts of the state.
* Reduce greyhound racing through by decoupling dog racing permits from casinos and card rooms, allowing parimutuel operators to have more flexibility from the increasingly unpopular dog racing.
* End all tax credits for greyhound racing. "We should not be propping up the gaming industry with taxpayer dollars,'' she said.
* Increase injury reporting for operators that continue to race dogs and impose new requirements on allowed substances for racing horses and dogs
* Clarifies that amusement games at Dave and Busters and Chuck E Cheese are allowed.
* Establish a Gaming Control Commission.
* Allow for the operation of "historic racing machines" at dog and horse tracks outside of South Florida. The new breed of machines that allows players to watch the video of a previous race and bet on it.
The bill will be a counterpoint to the Senate's more modest approach at reviving the gambling debate, which has advanced its bill requiring injury reporting bill for greyhound racing and is expected to vote on it the first day of the legislative session on Tuesday.