An overview of the latest gaming related news in Florida

There has been quite a few recent events in the sunny state of Florida which should be of particular interest to Gamblers everywhere, especially those in Florida of course, but to others as well.

We have a couple of new bills introduced in Florida regarding to Racetrack gaming.

The Senate Bill 970, sponsored by Senator Steve Geller would lower the state tax rate from 50% to 35% on all Class III Las Vegas style machines on greyhound and horse tracks, as well as the jai-alai frontons in the counties of Broward and Miami-Dade. Broward County’s Gulfstream Park is one of the three pari-mutuel facilities in the county with slot machines. Meanwhile, the Calder Race Course over in Miami-Dade County plans to open a Casino, due to a County Referendum on January 29th which permitting them to do so. Churchill Downs Inc., the parent company of Calder Race Course has stated that it may announce the initial plans for a Calder casino within the near future, after it releases the 2007 earnings report. 

The other Bill is the Senate Bill 1380, sponsored by Republican Senator Dennis Jones. This bill would allow Tampa Bay Downs and OBS to install electronic gaming machines along the lines of Class II slot machines. There are also eighteen other pari-mutuel facilities besides those in the Broward and Miami-Dade counties would also be allowed to install these machines. Like with the two Thoroughbred sites, they would pay a 35% state tax in slots revenue. As with some other slots-related bills in the recent past, the opposition is expected to be strong with those whom are against the expansion of gambling. Jones,Geller, and others however believe that Florida’s budget issues could cause some people that traditionally voted against gambling expansion to embrace these bills.

Due to the economic slump in Florida , Governor. Charlie Crist and his legislature are considering cutting some of the health and educational services.

Lower than average slots revenue in Broward County pari-mutuel locations as well as increased competiton by some other tribal casinos has caused concern about how viable building more more pari-mutuel Casinos would be. During an earnings call held on February 27th, 2008, the Las Vegas based Boyd Gaming company has indefinitely put it’s plans to build a casino at its Dania Jai-Alai in Broward County on hold. Boyd has stated that a decrease in Florida’s slot tax are among the factors that could possibly influence their decision.

According to Geller,Jones, and Book have stated that lowering of the tax rate would allow gaming facilities to spend more of the earnings money on advertisements and improvements, as well as the eventual expansion of Casinos. This change, they argue would help them compete more effectively with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Seminoles to start paying new slot revenue from Class III machines

Starting this year, the Seminoles are starting their first payments of slot revenue to the state. These payments are starting at roughly 10% of what analysts are estimating is their whole slot revenue. They are part of a compact that the Seminoles signed this past November with Governor Crist. This agreement allows the tribe to upgrade from Class II to Class III machines at seven different Casinos in Florida.

According to the Senate’s research staff, have estimated that the first complete year with a maximum of 2,000 different machines per each site Twenty new pari-mutuel casinos could generate combined state tax revenue of $500 million.

New Vegas style slots have arrived in the N. Broward Seminole Casino

Last but not least, comes the news that the Seminoles have finally obtained Las Vegas styled slot machines at their North Broward County Casino.

The Tampa Seminole Hard Rock Casino however, will have to wait until this Summer before they receive their new slot machines. The wait for the state’s only legal baccarat and blackjack will be even longer. The card games are being expected sometime in June for the Hollywood Seminole Hard Rock Casino, with Tampa getting them sometime in the late Summer or early fall.

To help get ready, the tribe has hired 3,650 different dealers who are experienced in pai gow, blackjack, and baccarat. Ads were placed in three South Florida Newspapers, which were designed to attract dealers from the casino boats located in the area. The recruiters are also looking outside of Florida, and held a two day job fair in Atlantic City a few weeks ago. The tribe is also accepting applications at their Casinos and Website. The dealers can typically expect to earn about $75,000 each year, with tips included, according to Jim Allen, Seminole Gaming CEO.

Although the new games will also require some addition support staff, Jim Allen would not offer an estimate on the number.

Back in the end of January, the tribe began swapping out Bingo machines with 1,000 new slot machines in the Las Vegas style. As of the middle of March, there are also 700 of the upgraded slot machines at Coconut Creek as well.

The Hardrock in Tampa is also the states largest Casino, with nearly 3,100 Class II slot machines.