Why 2013 Florida Legislature Will Hear No Casino Bills

Nov 26, 2012

The proposal to build mega-casinos in South Florida never made it to a final vote in the last session of the Florida Legislature. Now it looks like the issue may not be coming up again for at least another year.

Senate President Don Gaetz is setting up a new committee to examine Florida gambling which he says is both over- and under-regulated. But Gaetz is considered an opponent of gambling and he's in no hurry to pass a casino gambling bill.

Too Much? Some think this over-the-top rendering of a casino idea for the Herald site may have worked against the 2012 gambling bill.

"We need to have a thoughtful approach to this," he says. "We need to make sure that we know what we're doing before we either regulate or deregulate any aspect of gaming and certainly before anything is expanded."

Call For Patience

House and Senate leaders also want to take gambling off the table for now because each chamber's proposals were so far apart during the last session. One sticking point was what to do about internet cafes, also known as strip mall casinos. The Senate considered ways to regulate them, while the House wanted to ban them completely.

Tallahassee attorney Marc Dunbar tells his gambling-industry clients that they need to be patient. "I've pretty much told them that you're going to see a one year moratorium on anything related to gambling," Dunbar said.

"The best thing to do is take advantage of that time to work with the legislators as they go on basically what's going to be a listening tour."

A Petition Bypass?

Carol Dover, who lobbies the Legislature for hotels and restaurants, says big casinos would pull workers away from other businesses and could force smaller surrounding businesses to shut down. She's glad lawmakers are taking a break from the gambling debate.

"I think it's a very smart move," she says. "You have to remember that anything that the Legislature does as it relates to gambling in our state could change the face of this state for decades to come."

New gambling legislation could also run afoul of  the compact that allows Seminole Indians to operate casinos but -- in another possible complication -- the Genting Group could move it forward. Genting is the big Malaysian gambling conglomerate that bought the Miami Herald's bayfront headquarters with a plan to build a resort casino on the site.

With enough petition signatures, Genting could get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2014. If that happens, voters – not lawmakers - would decide whether to approve mega casinos.