On Monday, Florida Senate has advanced a proposed gambling bill that is set to reduce live racing and establish a new regulator in the state. This is considered a step closer to bringing some consolidation and updating the gambling regulation of the state, which is aimed at making its laws fit for the constantly upgrading gambling industry and establishing a special Florida Gaming Control Commission. As mentioned above, the state lawmakers are also willing to put an end to live racing as a condition of operating card rooms and slot machines in Florida.
Unfortunately, shortly after the proposal was presented before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, the bill called SPB 7080 faced the same difficulties as some similar legislative attempts did so far – race track owners across the state said the change will mean devastating losses for their business both in terms of revenue and jobs.
In 2021, the proposed piece of legislation faced opposition from Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino. The company’s president warned the Committee that the piece of legislation will enhance competition for the slots operations of local race tracks, which, on the other hand, will result in smaller proceeds for thoroughbred horse races and fewer race days in the state.
Mike Rogers, president of the Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino’s owners, said that the consequences of stronger competition and an uneven playing field among slot license holders would have an extremely negative impact on the thoroughbred industry in Florida. On the other hand, any drop in casino purses would have a strong impact on the number of jobs and the Florida horse racing industry’s overall stability.
Thoroughbred Race Tracks to Be Able to Operate Live Racing
Under the provisions of the proposed piece of legislation, casinos and card rooms will be allowed to operate in Florida without running quarter-horse or harness races, as well as so-called jai-alai matches. For years, live racing has become less popular among locals, while card rooms and slot machines have become more lucrative gambling sectors.
Thoroughbred race tracks would still be able to operate live racing, so they would be able to finance those operations. Their competitors’ casino venues, on the other hand, would not be allowed to do so.
The approval of the bills is still considered a long shot, with no similar legislation having been drafted by the Florida House yet. According to preliminary expectations, the House is expected to file a similar piece of legislation by the end of the week.
The Senate proposals lack a plan to transfer a gaming license from Broward County to the Fontainebleau Hotel and Resort, which has been one of the paramount goals of the real estate behemoth Jeff Soffer. The only live racing permitted to continue under the SPB 7080 would be offered at the Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park thoroughbred race tracks.
As mentioned above, the supporters of the proposed pieces of legislation seek the establishment of a Florida Gaming Control Commission that would regulate the local gambling sector. Under the provisions of SPB 7076, the authority over gaming regulation would be transferred from the Division of Parimutuel Wagering to the new watchdog that is to be housed in the Department of Legal Affairs.