As expected, Florida legislators fold on gambling changes

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Gambling is a hot topic in Florida these days with multiple bills and amendments being brought forth in the last few months.   However, despite both chambers of the state congress wanting to make drastic changes to the current laws involving gambling, the differences between what has already passed the House and what has already passed the Senate are so large that a reconciliation committee was unable to find middle-ground between the two chambers in time to have a vote before the May 5 recess.   For this reason, changes to gambling in Florida will have to wait another year.

One of the knocks on Democracy is how long it takes to get anything done and how much compromise is needed, and that is certainly true of gambling legislation this year in Florida.  Despite widespread consensus that the current laws did not align with the reality of our current times, Florida was unable to move forward on any action even on smaller issues where both the House and Senate agreed.  The differences between the two chambers arise mainly by who has been backing which chamber.  The Seminole tribe, the largest gambling organization in the state has much more control over the House than it does the Senate.

In reality, the lack of progress comes down to a single game, Blackjack.   The bill that passed the Senate allows the Seminoles to build two additional casinos in South Florida, but at the same time removes the monopoly that the Seminole Tribe has on Blackjack in the state by allowing dog and horse tracks and a few other locations to operate blackjack tables.  The House bill allows the Seminole Tribe to maintain its´monopoly on Blackjack, does not allow more casinos to be built, and requires the Seminole Tribe to make higher monthly payments to the state, up to $3 billion per year, which would make the contract between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe the largest gambling agreement with native American in the USA.

In any event, the Florida Congress went into recess without enacting any legislation which freezes a lot of long-term projects which were waiting for a final decision either way.  Especially in South Florida, the number of very big deals were put on hold indefinitely because of the lack of a decision by the Florida Congress as the property values of many locations are partially determined by how the property will be able to be used in the future.  Being able to offer Blackjack at a horse track makes a huge difference in the value of the land and the potential profits by the developer.