Florida Senator Jim King Pushes for Gaming Expansion

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Florida Senator Jim King Pushes for Gaming Expansion

Beginning in 1978, Florida state voters previously rejected constitutional changes that would have allowed expanded gaming in the state three times. But Florida's political officials have permitted legal gaming to gradually spread across the state.

On April 29th, 2009, the legislature is thinking on whether to allow full-scale casino gaming in Tampa and South Florida. State Senator Jim King, a Republican from Jacksonville said that a lot of people states that Florida is not a gaming state but that belief is not supported by solid facts. Since the 1930's, Florida has had legal wagering on horse and dog races and jai-alai frontons. Poker is now permitted in most gaming facilities in the state.

In the early 1980's, cruise ships started operating out of ports in the state like Mayport, making day cruises for players into international waters. Voters decided against casino gaming in 1986 but at the same time, they approved a different example of legalized gaming, the Florida lottery. Slot machines have been approved in the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward for more than ten years.

For more than one year, as a direct result on a gaming compact approved between Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminole tribe, casino games like baccarat and blackjack have been offered in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood and Tampa. Although Florida's Supreme Court decided last summer that such card games are not allowed in Florida, the card games continue at the Seminole casinos, even as legislators talks about modifying the law.

Despite the court decision, Florida has not attempted to stop the games but instead has petitioned the legislature to permit them to go on. Howard Korman, the president of the Jacksonville Greyhound Club said that the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa is like the casinos in Las Vegas.

With Florida facing an enormous budget deficit, Crist said that he has worked out a modified gaming proposal that will fast track some of the Seminole tribe's payments to the state if the legislature finalizes a gambling compact.

Crist said that would bring around $1.1 billion to the state coffers in the next few years. In 2007, Governor Crist said that the gaming compact was needed to ensure that the state of Florida receives a portion of the tribal gaming revenues. Under federal law, Indian tribes are exempted from taxation unless a compact is made. Some legal analysts believe that the Seminole tribe can offer Class III slot machines even without the state's blessings.

King said that if they do not finalize a gaming compact with the Seminoles, they will still continue to operate the games and the state will receive nothing. The Senate compact calls for a more big change. It gives the tribe the option to operate full-fledged casino facilities, including the games of craps and roulette, blackjack, slot machines and other card games as well as the game of poker without any limits in return for at least $400 million annually.

The bill also proposes to give the counties of Miami-Dade and Florida the options to offer blackjack and other card games as well as Class III slot machines. Horse and dog racing tracks would also receive the chance to feature video lottery machines.

King said that the decision to permit the tribe to operate a full-blown casino was made with the idea that they would become tourist destinations like the casino facilities in Nevada. He firmly believes that if the senate plan is approved, Florida could at least $1 billion annually in revenue.


David M. Bedingfield