Bills on Hialeah, Other Gaming Dead for Now

The Florida legislature took no action on several gambling-related measures.

The Florida legislature ended its 2012 regular session the night of March 9 and did not pass a bill that would have authorized an annual Thoroughbred meet for Hialeah Park.

Under the proposal, Hialeah would have been able to hold a Thoroughbred meet each November provided that it was selected to be in a rotation of tracks to hold the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The track has not had Thoroughbred races since 2001 but has applied for some dates in 2013.

The legislature did not pass a bill that would have changed a Florida law’s definition of horse racing. The change would have prohibited the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering from issuing new licenses under which holders could conduct pari-mutuel barrel racing meets.

The legislature also ended its session without passing a high-profile bill that would have authorized as many as three “destination” resorts with hotels and full-scale casinos in the state. In addition, it did not pass a bill that would have allowed Greyhound tracks to stop holding live racing.

Going into the final day there was a consensus expectation, which proved correct, that the legislature would not pass any gaming-related bills. Early in the two-month session several House leaders said they would prevent the full House from considering any bills that could be viewed as expansion of gaming.

There are widespread expectations no gaming bills will be considered by the legislature during any special sessions this year, Steve Geller, a former president of the Florida Senate, said March 8. If anything related to gaming were added to a bill, “it would kill a bill,” said Geller, a former president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States.

Geller is a partner in law firm Greenspoon Marder in Fort Lauderdale. He is a lobbyist for Mardi Gras Casino Florida, a Greyhound track/casino in Hallandale Beach. Geller expects that prospects for gaming bills will be better next year when the House has new leadership.