Sunshine State News on Dean Cannon View of Casino Bill

asino, Gaming Commission Bill Given ‘Long Shot’ for House Approval
By: JIM TURNER | Posted: January 2, 2012 3:55 AM

House Speaker Dean Cannon | Credit: deancannon.comHide
The depth of a budget that may have 2 billion fewer dollars than a year ago, along with the once-a-decade redistricting of political seats across the state, makes the gambling bill now before the Legislature a “long shot,” House Speaker Dean Cannon said.

“I think it’s an uphill battle because of the amplitude of the budget shortfall,” Cannon, R-Winter Park, said during an interview with Sunshine State News.

“The fact that there are only two bills that we have to pass this year, and they’re both complex, the budget and redistricting, I think those two are going to suck a lot of oxygen from the room,” Cannon added. “So I think those forces combined make it a long shot.”

Personally, Cannon says he’s opposed to the expansion of gaming in the state and remains

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“skeptical” of arguments that the destination resort bills — HB 487 and SB 710 filed by state Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale — would help limit the ongoing growth of gaming options in

the state.

“There are a whole bunch of variables in the greater subject matter of gaming,” Cannon said. “The Internet cafes, the pari-mutuels, this new Gretna issue with barrel racing, coupled with the push for casinos and the fact we did the Indian gaming compact recently.”

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Cannon declined to address different aspects of the bill that members may propose, such as those that have already been filed to outlaw or regulate Internet cafes or address the efforts in Gadsden, Hamilton and Palm Beach counties to have voters decide if local pari-mutuels can offer slot machines.

The slot machine effort, which could nullify the state’s gaming compact with the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida, is being advanced because of a lower court ruling that allows voters to approve the gaming machines at pari-mutuels.

The ruling has been appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the bills call for the creation of a statewide gaming commission and would allow up to three $2 billion mega-resorts.

Bogdanoff has said a ban on the cafes is expected when she files an amended version of the destination resort bill that will also include an increase in the license fee for the casinos, from $50 million to $125 million each, and that the casinos must be located in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

The tax on revenue from the casinos, currently proposed at 10 percent, and the 35 percent tax on revenue from existing pari-mutuels, is also expected to be readjusted.

By limiting the casinos to those South Florida counties where slot machines are allowed beyond the Seminole casinos, the state’s revenue from the compact would only be cut in half. The entire compact would be void, with the Seminoles expected to increase their gaming offerings, if slots and other Vegas-style games are allowed by the state outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Jai alai frontons, greyhound racing, horse racing and poker rooms that existed before the compact went into effect in July 2010, do not impact the compact.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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