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.