No Deal: FL Gambling Expansion Bill Collapses

May 12, 2017 - Sierra Kennedy
On Tuesday, a Florida gambling bill that would have created new casinos in Miami and expanded table games in various counties fell short of the finish line.

As previously reported, Florida SB 8 passed the Senate by a 32-6 vote back in March and was set to enter the House for negotiations. Sen. Bill Galvano’s bill would have allowed for two new casinos in Miami, slot machines in eight more counties, and authorization for the Seminole Tribe to offer roulette, craps, and blackjack. There was enormous pressure to negotiate a deal with the House before the end of the regular Legislative Session this coming Friday, however the bill is already dead.

What Went Wrong

The Senate and the House have long had differing opinions when it comes to the gambling landscape in Florida. The recently approved FL HB 7037 takes a more conservative approach to the address the state of gambling in Florida. Rather than expanding gambling, the Florida House of Representatives would renew the pre-existing gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe that would authorize their exclusive right to offer banked card games, such as blackjack, for the next 20 years. The bill also proposes prohibiting pari-mutuel facilities around the state from offering player-banked games such as poker and would prohibit the use of slot machines due to the Tribe’s exclusivity.

This is at direct odds with the Senate bill which would see pari-mutuels in Duval, Brevard, Lee, Gadsden, Palm Beach, Hamilton, St. Lucie and Washington counties authorized to add slot machines. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, was adamant about respecting the voter referendum that supported the allowance of slot machines in these eight Florida counties.

“They voted for it. A gaming bill has to respect their decision to allow more gaming opportunity.”

State Representative José Felix Díaz, R-Miami, believes that there were just too many conflicting principles in order to reach a resolution. On the issue of respecting the voice of the voters, he felt that the impact of gambling goes far beyond the territory that comprises the counties in question. In the past, there was a statewide vote for the expansion of slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, though there has never been a statewide vote for any other county.

"The fear is that you have counties that are very small that are not very populated and they are voting and that affects their neighboring counties… In a state that has a history of allowing everybody to vote for expansion of slots, I think the House has consistently said that if you really do want gaming in these counties, maybe every voter in the state should agree."

What Happens Next For Florida Gambling?

With the end of the regular 60-day session coming to a close and the persistent conflict between the two chambers, it is unclear when there will be a resolve. When you also take into consideration that the Seminole Tribe of Florida has not been in agreeance with either of the proposed bills, it makes it more difficult to imagine all parties reaching a middle ground on Florida gambling sites. Coming to a decision on gambling expansion in South Florida will undoubtedly require compromise from all three players.

Related: A Tale Of Two Bills: Senate Wants To Expand S. FL Casinos While House Wants To Restrict