After last year’s frantic push to expand gambling in Florida, all involved are toning things down this year.
No gaming bills are likely to be filed in the coming session. The Legislature’s new leadership recently created gaming committees in the House and in the Senate to study the industry in Florida. They will look at pari-mutuels, destination resort casinos, the Seminole Tribe’s compact with the state that’s up for revision in 2015 and Internet sweepstakes cafes.
The committees, which plan to hold statewide public meetings, are to make recommendations to help draft a comprehensive gaming bill for the 2014 session.
Lobbyist Nick Iarossi, who represents casino operator Las Vegas Sands, welcomes the move.
“My client is very encouraged by it,” he said. “A holistic and methodical approach is a very responsible thing to do.”
He said any future bill would help set a gaming road map for the state.
“Right now, it is not clear what Florida stands for when it comes to gambling,” said Iarossi, co-founder of Capital City Consulting in Tallahassee.
Malaysia-based Genting Group, one of the world’s largest casino operators, has endorsed the Legislature’s effort for “meaningful reform,” said lobbyist Brian Ballard with Ballard Partners in Tallahassee.
Genting abandoned plans for a petition drive to ask voters in 2014 to amend the Florida Constitution to allow destination resort casinos. The company owns nearly 30 acres north of downtown Miami, where it plans to build a tourist and entertainment resort.
“Genting is open to a whole lot of different approaches and will develop the South Florida property, whether gaming is involved or not,” he said.