Sen. Bogdanoff files 170-page rewrite of gambling bill

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A Senate committee Monday will consider a sweeping proposal that would allow three mega-casinos in Florida, offer the possibility of additional gambling at pari-mutuel facilities and try to rein in Internet cafes, reports Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida.

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, filed a 170-page rewrite Friday afternoon to a controversial “destination” resort casinos bill that surfaced in October.

The rewrite did not change the heart of the bill: A new state gaming commission would be able to approve plans for up to three resort casinos that would be part of mixed-use developments — with the resort owners required to sink at least $2 billion into each project.

But the proposal would require that each of the resort casinos be approved in local county referendums. Also, it would take a series of steps to try to allay objections from the politically influential pari-mutuel industry.

As an example, part of the rewrite would allow pari-mutuels to offer the same types of gambling — such as black jack, craps and baccarat — as the resort casinos. To do so, pari-mutuels would have to get voter approval in county referendums and pony up $125 million in fees.

Similarly, the proposal would allow pari-mutuels throughout the state to offer slot machines, a possibility that now is limited to facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Such an expansion into slot machines also would require approval in local referendums.

If resort casinos start to operate, the rewrite also would reduce from 35 percent to 18 percent a tax on slot-machine revenues at pari-mutuel facilities. Casinos or pari-mutuels that offer the broader array of games, such as black jack and craps, would be taxed at a 10 percent rate.

That lower proposed rate stems, at least in part, from the requirement that resort casinos spend $2 billion upfront on building and equipping their facilities.

Bogdanoff’s proposal would bar the issuance of new pari-mutuel permits after July 1, 2012, a move that a summary issued by her office says is intended to stop “expansion of pari-mutuel gaming.”

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee is scheduled to vote Monday on Bogdanoff’s proposal, the first test for what could be one of the most heavily lobbied issues of the 2012 legislative session.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.