House gambling bill teed up for next week - SaintPetersBlog

House gambling bill teed up for next week

The Florida House of Representatives quietly released its gambling overhaul for 2017 Thursday afternoon, setting it for a hearing next Thursday.

As expected, the 81-page bill (PCB TGC 17-01) includes a renewed blackjack deal, or “compact,” between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as first struck by Gov. Rick Scott.

No Casinos, the gambling expansion group, soon tweeted: “Still analyzing bill, but at first blush @MyFLHouse seems to have found a way to renew compact without turning FL into Vegas/Atlantic City.”

But the House already is at odds with the Senate’s 112-page measure (SB 8), which is set for its second and last committee hearing next week before the Appropriations panel.

In one significant example, the House bill outlaws designated-player card games, but the Senate would let “all cardroom operators … offer designated player games.”

In banked card games, players bet against the “house,” or the casino, and not each other. In traditional poker, people play against each other for a pot of money. Designated-player games are a hybrid, where the bank is supposed to revolve among the players.

Moreover, the House would prohibit the expansion of slot machines, retroactively to Jan. 1 of this year, by barring state regulators from issuing any new slots licenses.

The Senate generally expands the availability of slot machines, including allowing “any licensed pari-mutuel facility” to get slots.

Last month, House Speaker Richard Corcoran suggested his chamber’s approach to gambling would be different.

“I’ve seen the (Senate) bill, and look, it’s not where we’re at,” Corcoran told reporters. “The three things we’ve said are, it has to be a contraction (of gambling) … we want a constitutional amendment that bans the expansion of gaming; the Senate’s said they have no interest … and we have courts that keep encroaching upon our ability to make those decisions.”

The House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee will hear the bill next Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in a meeting scheduled for two and a half hours. Its chair, St. Cloud Republican Mike La Rosa, could not be immediately reached.

And the Senate Appropriations Committee will hear its chamber’s bill that same day at 9 a.m.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
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