South Florida could become an even bigger gambling haven with two new destination resort casinos and four dog tracks which could operate slot machines but no longer race dogs under a sweeping gaming rewrite filed Monday by House Republican Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa.
The measure takes a novel approach to gaming by requiring destination resort operators to buy out active gaming permits in order to operate the swanky casinos.
The cost of entering the lucrative casino market -- estimated to generate at least $500 million a year in revenues for the owners -- would include paying at least $175 million a year in gaming taxes. Owners would also have to make a $2 billion investment in the property, and successfully pass a local referendum.
"Under the scenario presented in my bill, Florida takes back contorl of existing gaming in our state and provide a clear blueprint for the path it will take in the future,'' Young said at a press conference announcing the 360-page bill. "The bill provides for an unprecedented contraction of gaming in the state."
This is the year to do this, she said, because of gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, a portion of it occurs this year. If approved, she said it would result in a "significant increase" to the state in gaming revenue.
"Knowledge is important to good decision making,'' she said, by informing legislators of the alternatives they will have a better choice.
The package includes four bills, the main one is HB 1233, which:
* Allow a destination resort casino to operate in Miami or Broward, expanding the footprint for gambling in South Florida and adding new competition for the Seminole Tribe. The casino would have to pay a minimum $175 million tax rate and pass a local referendum.
* Applicants would have to make a minimum capital investment of $2 billion, not including existing investments, and pass "a tremendous amount of requirements,'' she said.
* Only 10 percent of the resort casino must be must be used for the gaming floor.
* Reduce tax rate for racinos from 35 percent of 25 percent.
* Create a system of credits that allow for a destination resort operator to obtain a permit from one or more other parimutuel operators elsewhere.
* Allow Palm Beach and Lee counties to operate slot machines at their dog tracks, or operate stand-alone slot facilities.
* Puts a moratorium on new gambling permits and legislators will consider a constitutional amendment to end future gambling expansions, she said.
* Create a point system that encourages race track owners to close facilities in North Florida in exchange for expanded operations in South Florida. In order to gain a permit in South Florida they must have a net of 5 points obtained by purchasing pari-mutuels in other parts of the state.
* Reduce greyhound racing through by decoupling dog racing permits from casinos and card rooms, allowing parimutuel operators to have more flexibility from the increasingly unpopular dog racing.
* End all tax credits for greyhound racing. "We should not be propping up the gaming industry with taxpayer dollars,'' she said.
* Increase injury reporting for operators that continue to race dogs and impose new requirements on allowed substances for racing horses and dogs
* Clarifies that amusement games at Dave and Busters and Chuck E Cheese are allowed.
* Establish a Gaming Control Commission.
* Allow for the operation of "historic racing machines" at dog and horse tracks outside of South Florida. The new breed of machines that allows players to watch the video of a previous race and bet on it.
The bill will be a counterpoint to the Senate's more modest approach at reviving the gambling debate, which has advanced its bill requiring injury reporting bill for greyhound racing and is expected to vote on it the first day of the legislative session on Tuesday.