Reporters were trying to figure out the position on gambling expansion of Florida's new Republican governor Rick Scott this week, but it wasn't an easy task. In a brief press conference covering several other issues, the governor was asked whether his earlier meeting with Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson heralded an expansion of gambling in the state.
Florida media had speculated that the new incumbent may be amenable to permitting new land casino resorts after the meeting, which took place following his election, when Scott reportedly travelled in his own executive jet to talk with Adelson.
"I don't know why anybody would say that," Scott said. "I've not taken any position other than the position I've already said." But, he also said he didn't want the state to "become very largely dependent on gaming for revenue", noting that Florida already allows gambling.
"I'm fine with what they are doing," Scott said. "I've not taken any position I want to expand gaming or make any changes."
A report from Associated Press claims that Florida runs a state lottery, and has a compact with the Seminole Indians which gives state coffers a cut from gambling action at tribal casinos. The state also permits betting at horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons, and those pari-mutuel facilities also are allowed poker rooms, with some having slot machines.
AP adds that Las Vegas Sands has been pushing Florida to lift its ban on casino gambling, and Adelson has said he's willing to invest up to $3 billion on a Miami project. There is speculation that the Florida Legislature may see proposals this year to permit up to five land casinos in the state, regulated by a state control commission.
There is also an intrastate bill to legalise and regulate online poker on the legislative table.
Originally filed by Representative Joseph Abruzzo last March, HB77, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2011 was re-introduced in the House - again by Abruzzo - on December 16, 2010, with a proposed effective date of July 1, 2011.
The bill has comprehensive provisions against money laundering, and underage and problem gambling, and exploits a provision in the UIGEA that allows individual states to retain autonomy in controlling gambling legislation.
HB77 allows for Internet hub operators to run intrastate online poker sites, with the state controlling operator licenses and administering stringent regulations.
Operators will have to have a business licence in Florida, and preferably in one or more US states. And operators credibly licensed in other nations would be considered with strict pre-conditions.
A steep application fee of $500,000 is envisaged, payable to the state's Pari-Mutuel Wagering Trust Fund of the Department of Business and Professional Regulations. There is additionally a $1,000 annual licence fee for successful applicants,and of course state taxes.
Operational restrictions include an minimum age limit of 21 years for players, and operators will have to satisfy the regulator that the software and games on offer are fair and consistent.
The preamble to the latest filing of the Abruzzo bill reads: "Internet Poker: Creates the Internet Poker Consumer Protection & Revenue Generation Act of 2011"; provides for intrastate Internet poker to be provided to public by cardroom operators through state Internet poker network operated by Internet poker hub operators; provides for licensure, administration, and regulation by Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering of DBPR.
Effective Date: July 1, 2011"
Source: InfoPowa News