Florida Senate Gaming Committee Leaves Online Poker Out of Expansive Gaming Bill

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On Monday, February 24th the Florida Senate Gaming Committee released their anticipated gaming reform bill.

After hiring a consulting firm to review Florida’s gaming industry last year and taking feedback from the public, the Senate Gaming Committee put together a bill that attempts to reform and update Florida’s gaming industry.

The reform bill

At over 450 pages, Senate Proposed Bill 7052 aims at making comprehensive changes to Florida’s gaming landscape.

Some of the potential changes included in the bill are:

  • The creation of a gaming control board;

  • Increased authority, control, and enforcement over gaming by the regulatory agency;

  • Authorizing the governor to renegotiate the gaming compact with the Seminoles;

  • Consolidating all forms of gaming other than the lottery into a single statutory chapter;

  • Authorizing the possibility of 2 destination casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward County; and

  • Reduced requirements for operating a poker room.

Online poker is not included in the bill

The Senate Gaming Committee did not specifically include anything about online poker in the bill. There were, however, several changes to criminal laws related to online wagering.

Language was added to existing criminal gambling sections to expressly prohibit the operation of an online wagering business and to prohibit the electronic transmission of information for gambling purposes.

This language was likely included to prohibit other forms of online wagering, like Advance Deposit Wagering, but could also be applied to online poker.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Although SPB 7052 ignores online poker it may not be the last chance at gaming reform this year. There are a few ways that online poker may still happen.

The bill is still in a very early stage and is, as the name implies, a proposed bill.  The Gaming Committee will meet again to discuss the bill and likely amend it before formally presenting the bill to committee or to the rest of the legislature.

It also may be possible that a separate online poker bill is introduced.

There have been several online poker bills introduced in the last few years and it’s possible another online poker bill gets introduced this year.

Several of the senators on the Gaming Committee discussed online poker during the public hearings and were responsible for past attempts at legalized online poker.

Huge bills, like SPB 7052, are very difficult to pass because of their broad scope. It may be more likely that a smaller, more specific bill, like an online poker bill, would have a better chance at passage.

With the legislative session beginning next week and going until May there is still a lot of time for things to happen.

Regulated online poker, although unlikely, may still be up for legalization this year.

- Various members of the OnlinePokerReport.com staff contributed to this article. Follow @OPRupdate on Twitter and like OPR on Facebook to get the complete feed of articles from OPR.
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