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House Proposal to Permit Pari-Mutuels to Offer Blackjack

On April 8th, 2008, the Florida House's pari-mutuel proposal-which does not allow expansion of games offered at racing tracks and jai-alai frontons but does grant them a smaller tax rate to effectively compete with the Seminole owned casino facilities-has been released. The new gaming plan is connected to the proposal of the House to block Seminole gaming by closing blackjack tables and limiting the tribe to slot machines. Some of the highlights of the pari-mutuel part of the package include: for the 7 pari-mutuel establishments in Broward county and Dade county with voter-approved slots gaming, the slot machine tax rate would be slash from fifty percent to thirty-six percent.

The House utilized that tax rate because it is doubled the profit share percentage from slot machine earnings at Seminole casinos. However there is a condition; pari-mutuels must pay $140 million in revenues to the state to receive the thirty-six percent tax rate. Currently, the fifty percent rate is producing about $133 million in revenues so the pari-mutuels would have to expand their gaming offering or attract more players to get the smaller tax rate.

Representative Bill Galvano said that they are not slashing earnings to the state of Florida but instead issuing a challenge to the pari-mutuel facilities to fulfill on what they have told the committee. Galvano added that if pari-mutuel facilities want to enjoy the benefits of a smaller tax rate, they have to invest because it is not going to happen overnight. The Florida House's proposal lowers the yearly licensing fee from $3 million to $2 million. The maximum operating hours of poker room is extended from twelve hours to twenty-four hours a day.

The limit on poker wager is increased from $5 to $50 on standard casino games and $100 to $1,000 on Texas Holdem Poker games. The proposal also contains a provision that will allow quarter-horse racing tracks to change to offer more thoroughbred horse races and offer poker rooms.

The horse racing tracks would be required to hold forty races annually so they cannot just construct a shell horse racing track to get poker room. The Senate is passing a different gaming plan which will allow Seminole casinos to include the games of craps and roulette in their gaming offerings, allow South Florida racing tracks and jai-alai frontons to offer blackjack. The Senate's proposal would produce $568 million for the state.


Sunday, April 26 , 2009
Emma Green