Without getting political, here’s our numbers

Nov 13, 2012 3:00 AM

The strong turnout for the presidential election spilled over into the county initiatives and provided a very strong public opinion about local slots.

Here are the voting results approving of slots in specific venues in three prominent counties. (Voter approval does not guarantee installation. State law prevails.)

Question 1: Allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities in the county?

Palm Beach County

Yes – 56%

No – 44%

Brevard County Slots:

Yes – 57.2%

No – 42.8%

Lee County (Naples/Fort Myers):

Yes – 62%

No – 38%

A clear and distinct mandate for those three key counties for allowing slots in the local pari-mutuel facilities.

Now that the elections are done and the airwaves return to semi-normal, the snowbirds begin arriving.

Florida’s gambling issues barrel toward March 5 as the legislative session begins its 60-day annual journey, which may or may not signal expansion, regulation and tribal compacts. It’s wide open and that’s the Florida way.

The incoming Florida House and Senate leaders are on record preferring to spend the upcoming year accumulating information to formulate a long term plan for gaming in the state. The starting point in our opinion would be creating a department of gaming. This gaping necessity has given birth to all sorts of quasi gambling, mostly unlawful and unconstitutional.

The state currently permits racinos (slots and poker) only in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The compact with the Seminoles permits the tribe to be the only other casino entity to operate elsewhere in Florida – ever! The Miccosukee Tribe has an “understanding” with the state allowing a casino on their land near the Everglades.

The proliferation of “Internet cafés” around the state is the newest “quasi” legal gaming effort. Targeted to lower demographics and senior citizens, these strip mall venues look, act and play like slots. Operators liken them to Donkey Kong not Triple Diamonds.

Cafés across Florida are conservatively calculated to have revenues in excess of $1 billion. Sources suggest the rapid proliferation of Internet cafés, may preclude any chance of regulation.

Marc W. Dunbar, writing in Gaming Law Review and Economics (Vol 16 #12), discussed recent legal opinions impacting Florida gambling. Notably, in Duval County an operator challenged a county ordinance to place regulatory restrictions and cap the number of (Internet café) outlets. A trial judge in Jacksonville rejected the challenge – reaffirming the ordinance as constitutional and within home rule of the local county.

Dunbar opines that this is an initial signal being sent that local governments may seize control of gambling, which could lead to difficulties in expanding the Internet café industry (and other forms of gambling).

Dunbar also noted that two recent opinions from the appellate court could result in increased types of gambling devices (electronic poker, blackjack, roulette, etc.) allowed in the legal racinos and ultimately increase the overall number of slot facilities in Florida.

Finally, there’s the new barrel racing circuit, which presently consists of one operation in tiny Gretna in the panhandle. Savvy promoters in conjunction with a local Indian Tribe have erected a modest casino in a very rural area near the Georgia border (a state with no gambling).

A rodeo-style barrel race is run once or twice a day, conforming to the Florida State Constitution requiring racinos to stage live pari-mutuel racing in order to be licensed. Promoters insist they are in compliance and pay their taxes to the state just as legally permitted Gulfstream Park and Mardi Gras do nearly 500 miles to their south. A similar operation has been rumored in deep South Miami-Dade County near the entrance to the Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys.

Destination resort conglomerates (Sands, Harrah’s, Genting) are all circling their legislative ­wagons engaging lobbyists to write and champion laws allowing their mega-casinos in certain areas of the state. Genting got an early start by purchasing a huge footprint in downtown Miami.

Sands and Harrah’s have since purchased or bought options in areas in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Donald Trump bought the Doral Resort and Golf Course in western Miami, ostensibly to fix up the courses and renovate the hotel.

These potential gigantic operations are being opposed by the existing race track racinos, Indian Tribes and the usual “moral police,” but the money being bandied around is staggering. Plus, the argument in favor of huge tax money for the state and thousands of jobs is compelling.

In-state sports

• Both “The U” and Florida State managed to get by an anemic Virginia Tech football squad and now have shots at the ACC championship. Miami Coach Al Golden admits the ACC competition is hardly top 25, but he looks to climb back up the NCAA ladder using “baby steps.” The Canes have never won an ACC football title.

When the pending sanctions come down (early 2013) that plan may be stalled. Miami officials are already discussing declining a bowl invitation with a second consecutive self-imposed penalty. The question is muddied should The U win the ACC and get an automatic BCS invite. Stay tuned.

• Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis are on record that their top goal is to join the 2011-12 Miami Heat players in getting their own championship rings in 2012-13. Allen is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Chris Bosh is off to a great start.

The Heat laid a gigantic egg in Madison Square Garden vs. the Knicks several nights following the Hurricane Sandy disaster. Some local pundits opined that Miami opposed playing and their effort showed it. That same night Jim Larranaga’s highly touted U of M hoopsters sans a hurricane fueled excuse put forth a lousy effort and lost at home to  Division II St. Leo.

Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson bring a combined 80 years of gaming marketing and administration experience to Gaming Today. Contact them at [email protected].

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