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Senate committee passes bill to allow for internet poker in Florida

A bill to create an intrastate poker network tied to the 23 horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons passed a Senate committee Wednesday, opening the door to what proponents say would be up to $50 million in gambling tax revenue.

“What we have here is a bill that is very carefully crafted,'' said Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, the sponsor of SB 812. He said that the measure serves as a consumer protection measure, sweeping the estimated 600,000-900,000 Floridians who play Internet poker today into a program that will now be regulated and operated through the existing cardrooms. It allows the existing parimutuels to carve out a portion of the gambling profits and its imposes a 10 percent tax rate on all gross revenues.

“What we’re trying to do here is generate revenue for Florida residents of $10-40 million,’’ he said. “We’re protecting Florida consumers from having their identity stolen from having financial information stolen, from being easy prey from entities that operate offshore -- outside the long arm reach of the United State.'' 

Three hub operators will work together and they will be chosen by competitive bids. The measure passed with two no votes from Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, and Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville.