Southern Florida gambling expansion uncertain as Rep.s amend bills

Erik Fresen

Erik FresenA plan to expand gambling in South Florida has split the House and Senate, meaning a unanimous decision looks increasingly unlikely as lawmakers move in opposite directions.

Orlando Sentinel reports confusion intensifies as state representatives have had to make changes to their constitutional amendments in order to win votes. For example, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, released a 146-page rewritten version of his destination casino bill that bans internet cafes and lowers pari-mutuel tax rates. It would also lower racino tax rates from 35% to 10% once a destination casino opens. However, it would not grant casino licenses until 2017 – four years more than the original timeline which had the commission awarding licenses in 2013.

Fresen said the changes were crucial in order to gain him extra votes in the bill’s first committee hearing on Friday. “The upgrades were all for the most part driven by me based on conversations with the different committee members,” he said. “But the basic core of the bill is still there.”

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, also had to make changes to her bill in an attempt to gain popularity. Although, her version allows pari-mutuel facilities to become full blown casinos if destination resorts open in their counties.

They can’t be too pissed, though. As Orlando Sentinel reports, both lawmakers acknowledged quite some time ago that they would have to make changes to accommodate their respective chambers’ membership and  try to meet in the middle.

How the bill will go down on Friday is still anyone’s guess. Representatives from Genting and Las Vegas Sands said they are still reviewing the legislation, while two committee members: Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, and Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, R-Wellington, have already said are “no” votes.

Which way do you think it will swing for South Florida?