Melanie Brenner, an executive of Poker Voters of America, told a Florida state Senate committee investigating the tax revenue potential of gambling that an estimated 900,000 Floridians play online poker and spend about $600,000 a day on offshore Internet poker sites.
If Florida were to legalise online games within the state, it could reap millions in additional revenue, she claimed.
Brenner's opinion is just one of many covered in the investigation, reports the Miami Herald. The main thrust of the committee's work appears to have been centred on land gambling possibilities, with a finding that Las Vegas-style casinos have proved to be a tax boon for the 13 states that have approved them.
Sen. Dennis Jones, a Seminole Republican and chairman of the committee told the newspaper that it is too early to say yet whether Florida is likely to become the next state to welcome large resort style casino operators within its borders.
Jones is sponsoring a bill to bring "destination casinos'' to Florida and said it will be ready for introduction in about two weeks.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos estimated there was a "50-50 chance'' of the state Legislature approving land casino gaming this year.
Jones's plan envisages four to five casino resorts to bid for a chance to operate full casinos, including slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps. The bidders would pay a $50 million application fee and, in return, be offered the exclusive contract to operate the games within a 75-mile radius.
The Senate investigatory report listed various states and the lucrative results of land casino operations these have experienced. Pennsylvania collected $1 billion in gaming revenues, and state coffers in Louisiana, which benefits from riverboat casinos, receive $500 million annually.
Lobbyists from the big Las Vegas operators underlined the tourism opportunities which the availability of casino resorts often generates, along with boosted employment of around 5,000 to 7,000 jobs and the significant capital investment involved in creating large and spectacular resort casinos.
The Miami Herald reports that opposition from the state's parimutuel industry, as well as from Orlando-based tourism attractions, is expected to be intense unless lawmakers find a way to give these organisations additional gambling options.
Senator Jones said he's not worried about the impact of casino gambling on the state compact with the Seminole Tribe, because the 20-year agreement with the state is subject to review in five years. In that time, the tribe guarantees it will pay the state at least $1 billion.
"If we were looking at destination gaming, it would take four to five years to build one of those complexes out,'' Jones said. "It would not even impact the compact until the first card would play and that would be three or four years down the road and we're going on our second year of the compact.''
Jones said Florida needs the resort casinos because it is losing business for mega-conventions to other states.
He also noted that gaming issues likely to come before the state legislature this session include a bill that addresses legalising online poker in Florida.
Source: InfoPowa News