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Lawmakers going to conference on gaming

Updated 12:10 p.m. — On a voice vote, the House approved going to conference on the gaming bill, with Mike La Rosa named chair of the House contingent. He chairs the Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee.

As of 2 p.m., a conference had not been noticed.

Updated 6:45 p.m. — The conference committee picked La Rosa as chair, and Hutson as vice chair. La Rosa presented House Offer #1, the details of which were not immediately available, and which was taken under advisement. The committee then adjourned till further notice.

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House members received a memo Thursday morning announcing a plan to conference on this year’s gambling bill.

“Today we will take up a returning message list that consists of the gaming bill (HB 7067),” the memo said.

“Rep. (Mike) LaRosa will move to refuse to concur in the Senate amendment and accede to the Senate’s request to appoint a conference committee … Please stay nearby and ready as we will likely recess and reconvene a few times today to await returning messages.”

On Wednesday, Senate bill sponsor Travis Hutson offered an amendment to the House version that already passed off the floor. The chamber OK’d it 22-10, sending it back.

“voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot. If it passes by the required 60 percent, the initiative would give voters power to approve or kill future expansions of gambling in Florida. That could shut out lawmakers from having a say over gambling indefinitely.

The latest language adds, among other things, what Hutson called a “partial decoupling” for thoroughbred horse racing, referring to the term for removing provisions in state law requiring dog and horse tracks to run live races if they wish to offer other gambling, such as cardrooms.

It also adds a ban on steroid use in racing greyhounds, but removes a ban on video games known as “pre-reveal” that look and play like slot machines, and that critics say are illegal gambling. Pre-reveal game makers say they’re only for entertainment, though they do pay out winning plays.

Other significant differences exists between the chambers: The Senate is OK with designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack played at pari-mutuel cardrooms; the House would ban them. The House also would ban pre-reveal games.

Both chambers would extend a gambling exclusivity agreement with the Seminoles in exchange for $3 billion in revenue share over seven years. But the Senate is at 22 years; the House is at 20 years.

There’s more time for lawmakers to address gambling because the chambers failed to finalize a state budget on time this week to finish the 2018 Legislative Session on Friday.

Written By

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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