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Florida Casino and Card Room Gaming

Casino and card room gaming in Florida comprises card rooms and slots at racetracks, jai-alai frontons and casino cruises. Despite discussion of various proposals in the legislature to expand gaming, Florida’s gaming landscape has remained largely stable for the past decade. Card rooms at racetracks and jai alai frontons outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties also offer gaming, but are limited to the operation of non-banked card games, such as poker.

In July 2003, the Florida Legislature authorized the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to regulate card rooms in Florida after it found that poker was in line with pari-mutuel-style games and not casino gaming. Current law allows card rooms to be located at licensed pari-mutuel facilities. This has the effect of creating card room racinos. In April 2010, an amendment to a tribal compact expanded the card rooms' hours of operation and removed betting and pot limits on poker games.

In March 2005, voters in Broward County agreed to add Las Vegas-style slot machines at its racetracks and frontons, while neighboring Miami-Dade County residents rejected a similar proposal. The decision opened the door for the Hollywood Greyhound Track, Dania Jai-Alai, Gulfstream Park and Pompano Park Harness Track to convert their businesses into major casinos.

In March 2007, a proposed amendment to the state constitution allowing each county to decide whether to have casinos failed to be placed on the ballot. The bill would have allowed slot machines and certain card games at hotels with at least 250 rooms.

In May 2007, the Florida Legislature passed two gambling-related bills: an update to the Florida Slot Machine Act that extended hours of operation, allowed ATMs in casinos, and increased the number of machines allowed from 1,500 to 2,000; and a bill that allowed card rooms to be open year-round and increased the betting limits to $5. Both bills became law in summer 2007. That same month, there was a failed attempt to allow 11 existing gaming locations in Florida to add 1,000 coin- or token-operated video lottery terminals (VLTs).

In July 2007, Miami-Dade County held a referendum during the January 2008 primary on whether to allow slot machines at Miami Jai-Alai, Calder Race Track and Flagler Dog Track. Despite a number of challenges from anti-gambling and animal rights organizations, voters passed the measure. In January 2012, Miami Jai-Alai opened its 35,000-square-foot facility housing over 1,000 Las Vegas-style slot machines.

In May 2008, gambling opponents and animal rights organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the 2004 statewide vote that allowed Broward and Miami-Dade counties the right to have slot machines. The plaintiffs claimed that the 2004 petition to allow the vote contained fraudulent signatures. The judge ruled that since the election had already taken place, it did not matter, but the appellate court overturned the ruling. On 27 April 2012, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the lower-court ruling that says lawmakers can allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities.

In March 2008, the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee approved legislation to allow VLTs at the state's racetracks.

In April 2008, the Florida Senate rejected a bill to allow the Palm Beach Kennel Club to have a card room and an offtrack betting center.

In February 2009, the Canaveral Port Authority requested lawmakers allow nearly around-the-clock gaming on gambling ships at the Brevard seaport. Currently, ships must sail three miles out to sea before customers can gamble. Under the plan, gambling ships would be allowed to run gambling operations from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. while at port. The bill died in committee.

In 2012, the Florida Legislature pushed a bill (SB 710/HB 489) allowing casino-resorts in South Florida. While the bill initially gathered support, it failed to gain real momentum. The main reasons were conservative opposition to expanding gambling and potential loss of revenue from the Seminole Tribe Gaming Compact (a guaranteed payout of $1 billion to the state through 2015). The proposal would have created a state gaming commission and three Southeast Florida casino licenses. The proposal also included a $50 million one-time license fee, with an annual renewal fee of $2 million and a 10% tax on gross gambling revenues. There were already three owners ready to invest at least $2 billion apiece in casino-resort complexes in Florida.

In March 2012, a bill (SB 382) allowing dog track owners to operate poker rooms and other games and phase out live dog races failed for the third straight year.

In Central Florida, internet storefront casino cafés were opening under the guise of café owners offering a form of "sweepstakes" promotions, which were legal under Florida state law. In March 2011, legislation was first introduced aiming to clarify state law to shut down the cafés, but it died in May 2011.

In February 2013, HB155/SB1030: Prohibition of Electronic Gambling Devices, another bill outlawing the types of electronic games used in internet cafés, was introduced with a different outcome. On 12 April 2013, Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law, effectively shutting down the controversial industry. Critics of the ban say shuttering the 1,000 or so internet café casinos will eliminate approximately $1 billion in gaming revenue and create the biggest decrease in gambling in Florida in more then 100 years.

After the failure to pass destination casino legislation and facing criticism over not having a gaming regulatory agency in place, lawmakers contracted with the New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group to conduct a study of the state's gambling economy and laws, and specifically the expansion of gaming in Florida. Committees were set up in the 2013 legislative session expressly to look at Florida's patchwork of gambling laws with an eye to reform. The first part of the report, available in July 2013, concluded that "...gaming will evolve in Florida whether or not the Florida Legislature develops a plan, ...absent any plan, however, that evolution would be haphazard" and unlikely to address "any public-policy goals."

The second part of the study, released in October 2013, concluded that gaming in Florida, whether on a large or small scale, "would have a moderately positive impact on the state economy."

In March 2015, Rep. Dana Young introduced four gambling bills to the Florida House of Representatives. Collectively, if approved, the bills would permit the establishment of resort-style casinos and allow slots at racetracks and dog tracks. The bills would also shift and decentralize gambling away from North Florida and disperse it south.

In June 2017, the Senate passed a gambling expansion bill that would allow racing facilities to operate casino-style games and allow eight counties to offer slots. The bill also includes a provision to allow the Seminole tribe to add table games such as roulette and craps in addition to blackjack at their gaming facilities. The Florida House version of the bill, however, would not allow the tribe to operate the additional table games and would increase the share of revenue due to the state from the tribe. Once each version of the bill passes, the House and Senate will begin drafting the final version of the new legislation.

In November 2018, Florida’s Amendment 3 passed with more than 70% of the vote, giving the public the power to decide on the future expansion of gambling in the state.

Casino operations aboard ships in international waters are unregulated, and therefore Casino City does not include revenue from these activities.

Florida Casino and Card Room Gaming Properties

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