Florida Casino Gambling Bill Withdrawn

A bill that proposed the largest expansion of casino gambling in Florida’s history was taken off the table by its sponsor, putting an end for now to the prospect of a trio of mega-resort casinos in the state’s southern section.

Residents of Fort Lauderdale and Miami can stop reading books and online articles such as RouletteOnline.net’s how to play roulette, as Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami) requested that his bill be withdrawn. Due to the rules of the Florida House of Representatives, which state that no further action can be taken on a bill that fails passage in at least a single committee, the measure will not be revisited in 2012.

“Today’s action on the casino gambling bill is a resounding victory for those of us who have opposed this assault on Florida’s family-friendly economy,” said House Rules Chairman Gary Aubuchon.

Proponents of the bill had hoped to create up to 100,000 new jobs for Florida residents at the destination casinos. But the bill faced a likely defeat from the get-go before the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee. Opponents of the gambling bill reportedly had 10 of the 15 subcommittee members ready to vote against the measure, prompting Fresen to withdraw a debate on his gambling expansion legislation (HB 489).

The House Business and Community Affairs Subcommittee is not scheduled to get together again during this session, which rules out the possibility of the proposal coming up again in 2012. But many insiders believe that the bill is not completely dead and will be debated at a future date.

“This is only a brief timeout,” said Bill Bunkley, a lobbyist on behalf of the Florida Baptist Convention, which strongly opposes most gambling-related issues. “We know this is going to come back next year.”

The Sunshine State has been hammered by the crash in real estate values and its 9.9 percent rate of unemployment is well above the national average. The Legislature is looking for ways to add revenue, as the state faces a $1 billion deficit. But state lawmakers cannot agree on whether new casinos would plug the deficit gap or merely cannibalize the state’s existing revenues obtained from tourists.

The push for new casinos in Florida was slowed down by the complex politics of the state’s gaming interests, where wagering has been available for decades at horse and dog racing tracks. Those industries have seen a downturn in revenue in recent years and feared that new casinos would send them to their graves. Also a factor in the equation is the Seminole Tribe, which agreed upon a lucrative gambling deal with state authorities several years ago. Tribal gaming interests in the state also were against the casino expansion legislation.