Casino compromise not winning over John Thrasher
Submitted by Matt Dixon on January 3, 2012 – 12:54pm
A compromise version of legislation that would sprout three “destination” casinos in South Florida has not won over one of the bill’s biggest critics: state Sen. John Thrasher, R – St. Augustine.
“It still, the way I read it, represents an expansion of gambling,” he said. “Florida is a family friendly, tourist state. We should not be branded a gambling state.”
The bill’s Senate sponsor is Ellyn Bogdanoff, R – Fort Lauderdale. The original version faced tough criticism from business lobbies, and current pari-mutuel
facilities. Along with green-lighting the three Vegas-style casinos in South Florida, her reworked proposal does several things the old bill did not.
It taxes all slot revenue at 18 percent. The old bill taxed the new casino’s slot revenue at 10 percent, while current slot operators would continue to pay 35 percent. Supporters of the new casinos say it is fair because any company allowed to build would be required to invest $2 billion.
The rewrite allows current pari-mutuel facilities to offer the same table games the new resort casinos offer if they pony up a $100 million investment.
It also gives residents in Broward and Miami-Dade counties the ability to approve gaming expansion via referendum.
It shuts down internet cafes, and calls for a ban on barrel racing, a type of horse racing where horses weave between barrels. Supporters say it’s legal horse racing, while opponents say they are taking advantage of a loophole in state law.
“It [the compromise] creates a lot of new provisions. At the very least, I think we need to look at these. They have not even been discussed,” Thrasher said of the new proposal.
He sits in a key spot to halt the bill. He chairs the Senate Rules committee, the bill’s final committee stop. He would not speculate about whether or not he would give the bill a hearing if it gets that far.
“We [the Senate] have spent a lot of time on this, and the House has not even struck the first chord,” he said.
Bogdanoff has said that she does not support gaming expansion, but the destination casino bill is a needed vehicle for ramming tougher gambling regulations (which she supports) through the Legislature. Past attempts at passing tougher regulations by themselves have failed, she said.
Her bill would also set up a new commission to oversee gaming.