Sponsor Withdraws Florida Casino Legislation

The sponsor, Sen. Dennis Jones, withdrew the bill March 30.

A bill that would have authorized up to five Las Vegas-style casino hotels in Florida has been withdrawn from consideration in the Florida Senate.

Republican Sen. Dennis Jones, the bill’s primary sponsor, withdrew it March 30. He told The Miami Herald he took that action because Florida racetracks and jai-alai frontons were seeking to add amendments that would have lowered some of their tax rates. There is no similar bill in the Florida House of Representatives.

Jones said he would not support additional tax cuts following last year’s reduction from 50% to 35% on the state tax on slot machine revenue at pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward County.

Las Vegas Sands and several other casino companies had lobbied for the bill. Jones and other supporters emphasized their view that casino resorts would bring jobs and tourists to Florida. The Florida Senate staff had not determined projected revenue from new casino hotels, or how much gaming business they might have taken from pari-mutuel outlets and tribal casinos.

The proposed hotels would have been able to have Las Vegas-style slots, blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and craps.

Several pari-mutuel entities, including Gulfstream Park, expressed opposition to the original bill after Jones introduced it March 8. But Marc Dunbar, an attorney who represents Gulfstream, said Gulfstream was hoping some senators would seek to amend the bill and allow Gulfstream and other pari-mutuels to bid for casino hotels.

Gulfstream and Calder Casino & Race Course are among the five southeast Florida pari-mutuel facilities that have casinos with Las Vegas-style slots. Florida does not allow pari-mutuels outside Miami-Dade and Broward to have slots.

Jones, whose district is in the St. Petersburg area, is chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee which has initial jurisdiction over gaming issues. For several years he has been a proponent of efforts to reduce taxes and expand products at Florida pari-mutuels.

The Florida legislature will end its two-month regular session May 6.