House budget bill lets state gambling enforcers keep contraband, proceeds

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The bill allows regulators to keep contraband if their agents seize it as part of an investigation.

A bill released this week as part of the House budget plan would allow state gaming regulators to keep illegal gambling devices they confiscate.

The bill (HB 5203) allows the Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) to keep “any machine, apparatus or device” and “all money and other things of value” if their agents seize such contraband as part of an investigation.

The FGCC would also be able to sell such devices and put the proceeds into the Pari-Mutuel Wagering Trust Fund or the FGCC’s Federal Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which are used to fund FGCC operations.

Under current law, counties and cities may keep such devices as part of an illegal gambling investigation. If a state agency seizes illegal devices, the proceeds are distributed to the general revenue fund, which is used for a broad swath of government expenses.

The FGCC was created in 2021 by the Legislature in tandem with the passing of the Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, with much of the legacy gambling regulatory function moving from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

The FGCC is housed under the Department of Legal Affairs, overseen by Attorney General Ashley Moody. In the current budget year it received $28.6 million, and it has 188 positions.

In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the five-member panel, whose appointees are named by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and its agents received 1,266 complaints of illegal gambling. Subsequent investigations resulted in 52 arrests and the seizure of 858 illegal slot machines, $1.15 million in cash and $2 million in real estate.

The legislation is a budget conforming bill and will be part of the negotiations between the House and Senate over the final spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The main budget bills, known as the General Appropriations Act, are set to be released from each chamber later on Friday.

Gray Rohrer


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