Senate gaming bill promises 'attainable reform' - Florida Politics

Senate gaming bill promises ‘attainable reform’


The Florida Senate is about to tackle gaming issues again.

Sen. Travis Hutson‘s latest bill (SB 840) is less ambitious in scope than previous efforts, focusing on four topics: fantasy contests, greyhound and horse racing decoupling, slot machine taxes,  and designated player games at pari-mutuel card rooms.

“I am excited to take the lead on gaming for the 2018 Session and grateful for the opportunity to build on the efforts of previous leaders on this issue, in particular Sen. (Bill) Galvano,” Hutson said in a press release Thursday. “Thanks to the solid foundation left by him and others, I am able to offer a gaming bill more narrow in scope than in the past but no less thorough in detail.”

Hutson chairs the Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee, which handles legislation and policy related to gambling.

“I am confident this bill offers a focused starting point on a limited number of issues from which attainable reform can be enacted and look forward to working with the House of Representatives, the Governor, stakeholders and the citizens of Florida to achieve that goal,” added Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican.

The bill defines fantasy sports as being driven by player performance rather than team performance, and as long as someone isn’t “commissioner” of more than ten leagues, he is exempt from regulation.

As well, the Hutson bill allows race track operators to downgrade or eliminate their racing schedules and keep licenses for other types of gambling.

If they have conducted a “full schedule of live racing” for ten straight years after FY 1996-7, they can specify in their application for an operating license that they wish to curtail racing.

The bill also seeks to lower taxes on slot machines, which are currently 35 percent of revenues. By July 2020, they would be just 25 percent.

The bill also authorizes “designated player games,” a point of contention over the years. However, they can’t constitute more than half of games in a cardroom.

After a request for comment, Seminole Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said in a text message, “Thanks for asking, but the Tribe doesn’t comment on bills that may or may not become law.”

The tribe has exclusive rights from the state to offer blackjack at its casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. Controversy over designated player games playing too much like blackjack has long caused headaches for state and tribal leaders, leading to a federal lawsuit that was finally settled this year.


  1. If they have to legalize designed player games, how are they currently playing 3 card poker that way at the Sarasota Kennel Club?

  2. With this proposed Legislation eliminating the need to offer live racing, I I can’t see the logic of reducing the tax on slot win or other forms of gaming. At one time the Florida tax rate was 50%, but was reduced because of the losses caused by live racing at Greyhound and Horse racing. But without required racing dates, I would expect most Dog tracks to close live racing and concentrate on poker, slots and pari-mutual betting on the Horses, that are still profitable.
    Horse racing is still an important attraction for the State, but does need help to underwrite racing losses, especially Tampa Bay Downs, absent slot machines.

  3. Its funny how u guys feel about grayhound racing so mistreated how about a horse being whip to run no one talks about that greyhounds are beautiful athlete’s there are good families who own these aleletes

  4. Signing that Seminole Compact was probably the worst mistake Florida could have ever made in the history of negotiations. At this point, if you try to decouple – you violate the Seminole Compact – if you allow slots anywhere outside of Dade and Broward – you violate – if you allow designated games – you violate – if you allow fantasy sports betting – you violate – try to build anything that looks like a resort casino – you violate – pre-reveal – you violate – attempt to circumvent current prohibitions – you violate – anything that resembles Galvanos’ wishlist can of worms from last year – you violate.

    To the snakes accepting dead end contributions – Give the Seminoles Class IV autonomy – meaning no compact – then you can have your greedy hearts desire.
    – And to the corrupt rat in the castle – Slots are coming to your doorstep.

  5. Decoupling has come up before. Attaching it to other gaming issues may help, or it may not. My opinion is that it is an issue separate from the Compact and gambling in general. Racing is a gaming situation where innocent living creatures get injured and killed on a regular basis. Betting in greyhound racing is gambling of course, but the bigger issue is the pain and suffering these dogs endure and the uncertain fate they face when they are no longer profitable.

    I am a Board member of GREY2K USA Worldwide, an organization that fights to save these marvelous creatures all over the globe. (you can learn more about us here: I have fostered and adopted rescued racing greyhounds since 1995. I cannot imagine abandoning any of them when they become injured, old or sick and yet this is routinely what happens to them at operating tracks and will continue to happen as long as racing is allowed to exist.
    Fred Barton
    Board Member
    GREY2K USA Worldwide

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