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October 13, 2015

Tallahassee Trend

Florida Legislative Preview - 2012

Redistricting won't completely dominate the legislative landscape in January. A look at other issues percolating in the background and who wants what.

Amy Keller | 1/1/2012



CASINOS — The hottest non-redistricting fight likely will play out around a bill sponsored by Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami) and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale). Their legislation would create a state gaming commission styled after regulatory bodies in Nevada and New Jersey that would award licenses to three entities to build high-end resort casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Bidders would pay $50 million, refundable if the bidder is denied, to compete for a license and would be required to make a $2-billion minimum investment in each facility. Casino operators would pay a 10% tax rate on net gambling revenue. Focus of the debate: Jobs and economic development vs. the psychological, business and social impacts of gambling.

Players: Gaming and resort interests like the Genting Group of Malaysia and the Las Vegas Sands Group. Sands will try to influence the law so there's only one license available and then try to win it. The state's pari-mutuel industry, meanwhile, wants to be taxed in the same way as the casino resorts if the state allows casino operations. Meanwhile, powerhouses including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Walt Disney World will fight to keep the casinos out, while Associated Industries of Florida is backing the casinos. Chamber President Mark Wilson says mega casinos would pose a "major threat" to other existing businesses and would harm the state's reputation and evolution toward a more diverse economy. "We think what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas."

INTERNET CAFES — Another gambling-related fight will play out over the 1,000 internet cafes featuring sweepstakes-style games that have sprung up in Florida. Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) and Sen. Steve Oelrich (R-Gainesville) have reintroduced legislation that would outlaw the cafes, which sell customers phone cards and web surfing time in exchange for the opportunity to play slot-machine-type games on computers. Other legislation would merely regulate the cafes, described variously as either crime magnets or innocuous pastimes akin to McDonald's Monopoly game.

Don't Miss:

Lawmakers return to Tallahassee two months early to begin their once-a-decade task of redrawing district lines for state House and Senate seats and the U.S. Congress. The Game of Redistricting »

Tags: Politics & Law, Government/Politics & Law

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