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Florida Online Gaming

Florida has tried and failed to pass legislation regulating online gaming in the past few years. Now, in its haste to shut down "Internet sweepstakes cafés," the legal status of online poker and all online gaming is uncertain.

In March 2013, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit "any electronic device" from accepting any form of money, special account numbers or codes that would allow players to receive extra credits or prizes. The bill was originally intended to shut down Internet cafés that were being used as venues for illegal sweepstakes operations.

Online poker proponents have not had much success in advancing their agenda in Tallahassee.

In 2010, HB1441 was introduced to legalize intrastate Internet poker, regulate the operation of the games and tax the operators. The bill died in the House Insurance, Business & Financial Affairs Policy Committee. SB1582 was introduced, which provided legislative intent to revise the laws relating to poker. The bill was never heard and died in the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries.

H2 Gaming Capital on behalf of Poker Voters of America prepared an analysis of the impact of HB1441. The report states that Florida has the potential to be the fourth-largest intrastate market in the United States. Based on the proposal of HB1441, estimated revenues for a regulated intrastate market would be worth approximately $226 million in 2010, increasing to $744 million in 2014. Florida would be paid 10% by the hub operator as an annual tax.

In 2011, discussions to allow pari-mutuel facilities to offer online poker through third-party websites were underway. The pari-mutuels would have received a cut of each hand of poker and the state would have collected a 10% tax on the rake. Up to three poker sites would have been used as central locations for the pari-mutuels currently in Florida. Many lawmakers were on board with the idea.

In March 2011, Florida's intrastate poker bill, SB812, was approved by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee by a 10-2 vote. The bill required an operator to have existing and established experience with Internet gambling or be licensed in a legal and regulated jurisdiction anywhere in the world. Subcontractors could not have accepted any online wagers from Florida residents since the UIGEA was signed into law in 2006. Hub operators would have paid the state 10% of gross revenues on a monthly basis in addition to a $500,000 annual license fee and a $10 million nonrefundable payment up front to be applied against future revenues. Card rooms would have applied for affiliate licenses. Players on the network had to be physically located within Florida.

Florida bill SB812 faced a tied vote, 2-2, from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, thereby killing the bill.
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