The state of Florida has been struggling with gaming laws for many years, but 2010 marked a new day for its casinos and an expansion of poker therein. As the state still may consider the legalization of intrastate online poker, per a bill introduced by State Representative Joseph Abruzzo, Florida has the ability to set the standard for poker laws around the United States.
The most recent development in Florida gaming laws involved a pact with the Seminole Tribe, which will allow them exclusive rights for their seven existing casinos, one of which is the very popular Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, to host games like poker and blackjack, along with slot machines. The pact was engineered by Governor Charlie Crist, who is currently also a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Another provision in the law allows other existing poker rooms to extend their hours, offer larger poker jackpots, and increase betting limits on their games, all of which is expected to attract more poker players and help the overall bottom line of the casinos. By July of 2010, 23 of those poker rooms will also be able to offer no-limit cash games instead of only limit games as is currently the case. In addition, poker rooms connected to racetracks in Dade and Broward counties have been authorized to stay open 24 hours a day on the weekends and 18 hours a day during the week. The benefits of the new law look to bring approximately $6.8 billion to Florida’s revenue stream over the next five-year period.
The bill was not without its opponents, as some feared Crist was only working with the Seminoles to gather supporters and funding for his Senatorial campaign. And still others, like Sen. Ronda Storms of Florida, according to the SunSentinel.com, opposed any expansion of gambling because of its alleged links to crime. “Whatever the cost,” she said, “it’s not worth it for the cost to society.”
But the legislation found overwhelming support across the state and in its legislature, not only for the increased revenue, but the potential to draw more tourism dollars to the state with gaming options for travelers and the potential to attract more poker events down the road.
Thus the support for Abruzzo’s House Bill 1441, which is said to be moving through the mark-up state and hopes to be up for debate soon. The intrastate online poker legislation would allow companies to apply for licenses and operate businesses on behalf of already-established card rooms and casinos, as well as bring more than $200 million in revenue to the state in only its first year. The original hope was to have the bill passed and implemented by July 1, 2010, but the time frame has been extended indefinitely to encourage more cooperation on the bill.