A Senate panel has voted to reestablish the Gaming Control Commission, preparing that measure for discussions on the Senate floor.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16-3 on Monday to approve a bill (SB 4A) establishing the commission as a law enforcement agency within the Attorney General Office’s Department of Legal Affairs.
The commission would take up the findings from an investigation into gaming violations to oversee penalties and fines.
“The goal is to have this commission have the state of Florida not violate the Compact ever again and to go in there and shut down anything they think violates the Compact,” said Sen. Travis Hutson, the St. Johns County Republican tapped to carry the Senate’s gaming measures.
With the Senate’s approval, the Governor would appoint the panel’s five commissioners from a range of backgrounds to four-year terms. However, commissioners cannot serve for more than 12 years.
The Legislature has already appropriated at least $2 million for the commission.
Senators also voted 18-1 to approve an accompanying measure (SB 6A) to approve a public records exemption for the commission.
Earlier in the meeting, the panel voted 18-1 to approve a bill (SB 2A) to implement Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe. St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes was the lone Senator to vote against that bill. However, Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson and Jason Pizzo joined him in opposition to the bill creating the commission.
Brandes suggested the commission would be redundant and take on a task the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is capable of handling.
“You’re going to be able to get this job and actually not have to go after the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is the Tribe as it relates to gaming, and you’re going to be sniffing around small counties, looking for backroom card games, maybe,” Brandes said.
Commissioners likely wouldn’t do that themselves, he continued, because of the investigative arm of the proposed agency.
“I’m not really sure what this entity is going to do, other than be hyper-politicized,” Brandes said.
However, the three senators were largely outnumbered. Among those in vocal support was committee Chair Kelli Stargel.
“It seems as though we’re always chasing people who may be breaking the law with regards to gaming, and I hope that this commission will do its job with the makeup that we have to make sure that those things aren’t always occurring,” she said.