Day At The Track

Florida Senate looking at decoupling

07:28 AM 10 Apr 2021 NZST
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TALLAHASSEE (CBS Miami) — Amid ongoing talks with the Seminole Tribe about a gambling deal, Senate President Wilton Simpson wants to move forward with other measures that would create a state gaming commission and lift a long-debated requirement on pari-mutuel facilities.

Simpson announced Wednesday that the Senate Regulated Industries Committee will meet Monday to consider a proposal (SB 7076) that would create a five-member “Gaming Control Commission” to oversee gambling operations in the state. The Senate committee also is expected to consider a measure (SB 7080) that would do away with a requirement that many pari-mutuel facilities conduct live horse racing or jai alai games to offer more-lucrative card rooms.

In a memo to senators, Simpson said the proposed gaming commission would be appointed by the governor and would have the authority to police the state’s gambling laws, which now are largely overseen by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and  local law enforcement officials.

“Responsible regulation is central to gaming, and I believe, as with other industries, such regulation should be reviewed and updated regularly,” Simpson, R-Trilby, said in the memo. “Appropriate regulatory controls build public confidence and lead to a stronger gaming industry that can spur economic growth that benefits the businesses and our state.”

Simpson’s other proposal would affect pari-mutuels that have harness racing, quarter-horse racing and jai alai. Those facilities would no longer be required to offer the races or jai alai games while continuing to operate poker games, a move known as “decoupling.”

Florida voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment that banned live greyhound racing at the state’s dog tracks but allowed operators to continue to conduct card games and, in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, to offer slot machines.

Pari-mutuel operators for years have pushed for decoupling, but critics say the card games are a reward for continuing to support the state’s once-glamorous racing and jai alai industries. The Senate decoupling plan would not affect live thoroughbred racing currently being conducted at two tracks.

“Thoroughbred breeders, owners, trainers, and permitholders believe keeping a live racing schedule is vital to their industry and its long history in our state. As such, they are not included in this legislation,” Simpson said in the memo.

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