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Chips are down on slots tax rate change

A proposal to give Broward's parimutuels a tax break on their new Vegas-style slots is temporarily off the table, after a state Senate committee meeting this morning.

Sen. Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, withdrew his proposal to give the four Broward parimutuels a 5-percent tax credit for capital improvements for the time being. This leaves the current 50 percent slots tax rate unchanged in both the Senate and House proposals to loosen slots regulations.

Both still add more machines, include the option to extend operating hours and allow ATMs in the facilities as long as they remain off the casino floor.

Geller told the Senate Regulated Industries Committee that he decided to withdraw the propsed tax credit after learning it did not have the support of Sen. Dennis Jones, the committee's chairman.

Other senators, including Jones, have said they think it's too soon to support a tax change and want to wait at least a year before either lowering the 50 percent tax rate or offering a tax credit. The two Hallandale Beach racetracks that currently offer the new Vegas-style slots just opened at the end of last year.

Jones added after the meeting that he's hesitant to support Geller's proposed tax credit in a tight budget year, after a staff analysis showing that it would cost the state $60.78 million at the end of four years.

During a Senate tour earlier this month, parimutuel executives tried to persuade lawmakers that they needed a tax change to help them compete with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which does not pay taxes to the state.