Just as it always does in recent years, a legislative effort to revisit the state’s gambling laws bloated and sank in the waning days of this year’s Legislative Session.
After months of negotiations a proposed new “Compact” – a gambling agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida – failed Friday when the House indefinitely postponed the measure.
But Florida has a history of failure, at least in recent years, when it comes to addressing gambling. The state’s inaction even caused the Las Vegas Sands Corp. last September to give up its efforts to build a destination casino resort in Florida.
That inertia is largely because of the fractured vote when it comes to gambling issues, split among anti-gambling-expansion lawmakers, those with a Seminole casino in their district, and those with other pari-mutuel interests among their constituency (i.e., dog or horse tracks).
The Sands had wanted to get into the Florida market with an “integrated resort.” That means luxury rooms, convention space, high-end retail and celebrity-chef restaurants, along with Las Vegas-style gambling action.
“I understand their perspective,” said Nick Iarossi, the Sands’ Florida lobbyist. “We’ve been pushing this for six years with no success.”
In 2012, former state Sen. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff pushed a measure to permit three destination hotel-casinos in South Florida. That effort died.
“I completely understand their decision,” she said last year of the Sands. “Nobody wants to address a comprehensive approach to gambling in this state. It’s taboo but it still needs to be fixed.”
The next year, realizing they had likely bungled it, lawmakers hastily moved to ban Internet gambling cafés – only after a multistate investigation that netted dozens of arrests threw egg on the Legislature’s collective face.
Two years after that, House Republican Leader Dana Young of Tampa sponsored her own sweeping legislation to permit two destination resort casinos in South Florida and allow dog tracks to stop live racing but continue to offer slot machines, among many other provisions.
It, too, died during the Legislative Session.
This year’s Compact and related legislation were doomed by this week. That’s when a prominent gambling lobbyist, privately asked his opinion of the measures’ chances, flatly said, “… It’s in full bleed.”
Parts of this post were published previously. Jim Rosica ([email protected]) covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee.