A bill that would have cleared the way for three new destination resorts in Florida has failed to get out of the 15-member House Business and Consumer Affairs subcommittee, leading the conservative Rules chairman Gary Aubuchon to call the issue “dead” for the current legislative session.
Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami) had worked to get the bill out of the committee, but postponed a vote when he concluded the measure lacked the necessary number of votes. The House could still reintroduce a pro-casino bill that made it out of committee in the Senate, but Aubuchon vowed to stand in the way of any such effort.
“The decision by the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee to postpone a vote on a bill that would usher in the largest gambling expansion in state history means the issue is dead,’” said Aubuchon, in a statement, calling the development a “resounding victory for those of us who have opposed this assault on Florida’s family friendly economy.”
No one expects the issue to go away permanently, including some important opponents of the House bill who saw the foundation for agreement coming out of the Senate bill, which created parity between the state’s racetrack gaming facilities and any new resorts which would have full-scale gaming. The Senate bill was rewritten to grant racetrack gaming operators rights to operate the same games as the new resort casinos and the same tax rate. Parity in the House bill was limited to tax rates.
“I think what this does is it levels the playing field and gives us an opportunity to regroup and try to bring this issue back in the right manner next year,’’ Dan Adkins, president, Mardi Gras Casino and Racetrack in Hollywood, told the Miami Herald.
Still, this year’s fight showed just how steep a climb it is for any bill to expand gaming in the Sunshine State even if the pari-mutuels get on board in the next round, with powerful opponents that included the Seminole Tribe, Disney World and cultural conservative groups aligned squarely against the measure.