On the first day of the Legislature’s Special Session the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee brought up nine bills in three hours to address the 2021 Gaming Compact Between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State of Florida.
The 30-year compact reached between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida legalizes sports betting plus expands casino table games. For its part, the state of Florida is guaranteed $2.5 billion over the next five years and $6 billion by the year 2030.
The nine bills brought before the committee today ranged from casino gambling and online sports betting to bingo and horse racing. All of today’s bills were sponsored by Senator Travis Hutson (R-District 7).
Senate Bill (SB) 2-A, the implementation of the Gaming Compact, was reported favorably after a long question and debate session. The deal with the Seminole Tribe would legalize online sports betting in Florida, which would be operated exclusively by the tribe. It would also add craps and roulette at the tribe’s casinos and replaces the 2010 compact between the tribe and Florida.
Before the Senate met to consider the Compact, House Speaker Chris Sprowls said many were concerned some language in the compact could be construed to lead to the backdoor expansion of online gaming and passed that concern on both the Seminole Tribe and DeSantis. Sprowls announced that all parties agreed to an addendum eliminating any language regarding online casino gaming from identical bills before the Senate and House.
“The House will be considering the ratification of a Seminole compact that contains no conversation or pathway for statewide online casino gaming in Florida,” Sprowls said.
However, the bill still allows online sports betting. The Capitolist reached out to the Senate bill’s sponsor for clarification of why online casino gambling would possibly be seen as lead to expansion of online gaming but online sports betting would not. Hudson’s office has not responded yet to the call.
The inclusion of online sports betting or online casino games put the bill in legal jeopardy. See The Capitolist’s related story here.
SB 10-A creates the Florida Gaming Control Commission within the Office of the Attorney General. It was also reported favorably, despite Senator Jeff Brandes’ (R-District 24) concern that it was an expansion of government and not needed.
SB 6-A, Public Records and Public Meetings/Florida Gaming Control Commission, specifies that any exempt or confidential and exempt information obtained by the Florida Gaming Control Commission retains its exempt or confidential and exempt status. This bill also passed favorably.
All bills related to Bingo were temporarily postponed due to confusion over the necessity of the bill.
“I represent Northwest Florida and we don’t care how much roulette you play or blackjack or what else you do, but don’t mess with Bingo,” said George Gainer (R-District 2) with a laugh.
Both bills, SB 16-A and 18-A, relating to Fantasy Sports were passed favorably. SB 16-A creates the “Fantasy Sports Contest Amusement Act,” which, among other things, specifies that certain activities relating to fantasy sports contests are not subject to certain gambling-related prohibitions, because “Fantasy Sports are a game of skill, not gambling.”
Since SB 18-A requires applicants for a fantasy contest operator license to pay a specified application fee and other fees and applicants for the license to obtain and pay for fingerprint processing, etc., this bill requires two-thirds legislator approval to become law.