Gaming Commission

Florida's new regulator bill advances despite failed compact; gaming expansion backers ask Court for language review

Florida Senate.
Reading time 2:22 min

Florida is moving ahead with the creation of a Florida Gaming Commission. The state Senate voted 37-2 on the regulator legislation: the House must now also agree on the proposal, which would see the creation of a new five-member body.

The push for the new Gaming Commission comes on the back of a frustrated gambling expansion last year, when a Florida compact was struck down in federal court. The Gaming Commission was set to be created alongside the deal to regulate expanded gambling, reports Florida Politics.

The 30-year gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe called for the Seminoles to pay the state at least $2.5 billion over the first five years in exchange for sole control over sports wagering in Florida, plus the option to add roulette and craps to its operations. The Nov. 22 ruling is currently being appealed.

Under the Gambling Commission proposal, the responsibility to regulate state gambling laws, currently under the watch of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, would be transferred to the new regulator.

Meanwhile, gambling run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida on its property is regulated by federal Indian gaming laws. Given that there will be no statewide expansion unless the extended compact is revived, some legislators have brought up doubts on whether the Commission is needed.

On Thursday, a Seminole Tribe spokesman said tribes generally are not subject to state regulatory laws and he was not sure how Florida’s Gaming Commission would affect their gambling operations, if at all.

The Florida legislation deleted a requirement that each member of the Commission be appointed from the five appellate court districts. This was done in light of a Supreme Court request to create a new 6th Appellate District.

So far, Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed three members for the Commission, all associated with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, explains Florida Phoenix. Two seats remain vacant.

The push for the new Gaming Commission is not the only issue currently on the gambling agenda in the Sunshine State. Political committee Florida Voters in Charge is asking the Supreme Court of Florida to review ballot language for a gaming expansion proposal, despite their petition drive having failed to gather enough valid signatures to qualify for November.

The group is now pushing for the Supreme Court to render an advisory opinion on the ballot language in case the committee wins a lawsuit challenging the validity of its petition counts, further reports Florida Politics. FVIC has now asked for a brief-filing schedule that would lead the court to issue an advisory opinion by April 1.

The political committee, which had received more than $50 million from gaming giant Las Vegas Sands Corp., sought to allow existing card rooms to become casinos if they are located 130 miles from tribal facilities. The amendment would open the door to casinos in North Florida, along the Interstate 10 corridor, and is geared toward a facility in the Jacksonville area.

The group is arguing the court must go forward with business of reviewing ballot language, regardless of whether an initiative has the signatures to qualify for the ballot. A Supreme Court review of language is a necessary requirement for placement.

Additionally, the committee is contesting the failure of its petition drive and, on February 1, Florida Voters in Charge asked the court for more time. The campaign had managed to get 814,000 petition signatures verified, 77,000 short of the bare minimum required by state law.

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