The US gambling market is experiencing many changes lately, with states like Florida considering brand-new bills to make betting in the state safe-for-all. On April 7, 2021, the Florida Senate released an ambitious bill to create a regulatory body to oversee all gambling activities in the state. As expected, the bill has its fair share of proponents and opponents.
According to the bill (SPB 7080) proposed by Senator Maria Sachs on April 12, 2021, the new law would create a Florida Gaming Control Commission to oversee all gambling activities within the state. The body would consist of a five-member bench appointed by the governor. Also, the commission’s members would be from different judicial districts. The legislation adds that the new body would supervise and regulate all gaming activities as well as enforce gaming laws.
Currently, the Department of Lottery supervises all lottery gaming activities, whereas the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulates and registers specific game promotions. On the other hand, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation supervises slot machine operations, pari-mutuel wagering, and card rooms. Passing the Senate Bill 1198 would mean that all gambling-related duties of these three bodies would transfer to the new entity.
In a show of support to Sachs’ bill, the House Speaker, Steve Crisafulli, agreed that a gambling oversight body was vital. He said that the conversation isn’t just about licensing but creating a body whose sole focus will be on daily gaming issues. Meanwhile, Senate President, Wilton Simpson, called on senators to ensure that all state laws are updated to match the current gambling market realities.
But it didn’t take long after presenting the bill on the house floor before it ran into hurdles. According to Paul Seago, the Executive Director of No Casinos Inc., the state doesn’t need a bigger bureaucracy because it doesn’t have enough gambling activities to regulate. Unfortunately for him, senators unanimously passed the bill. It’s now awaiting the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Today, the Seminole Gaming Commission manages and regulates all casinos and other gambling activities in Florida. Interestingly, the Tribe doesn’t feature anywhere in the bill. This can create confusion in the future, considering the body holds the monopoly in the sports betting industry. Theoretically, any sportsbook and online casino will continue to apply for licenses from the Tribe to start taking bets.
Speaking of the proposed law, Senator Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, who chairs the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, said the Tribe isn’t opposed to creating a gaming commission. He only hopes that the Tribe and the Governor can resolve their issues as quickly as possible for the state’s gaming industry to see any meaningful progress.
Previously, Simpson, the Senate President, had crafted a plan to rake in more than $650 million in gaming revenue by allowing the Tribe to operate roulette and craps in their seven casinos. He also proposed that the Tribe be granted an exclusive license to offer online casino and sports betting services. In exchange, the Tribe would share their revenue with the state. Unfortunately, those talks never got anywhere.
History has it that gaming industries with a single regulatory watchdog are more efficiently run and secure. In short, gaming industry players in Florida have nothing to worry about after introducing the Gaming Control Commission. The bill envisages the commission to resume its full responsibilities on July 1, 2022.