Florida Track Barred From Adding Slots

The Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track (l.) in Bonita Springs, Fla., will not be adding slot machines this year. While the legislation may have been successful, lawmakers were concerned about conflicts with a possible compact being negotiated with the Seminole tribe.

Laws are crisscrossing in Florida and have prevented the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track from installing slot machines. Florida senators held off on a piece of gaming legislation that would have conflicted with a Seminole state compact. The legislation pointed toward gaming reform and the development of resort casinos.   

State Senator Garrett Richter said the reform would have possibly created complications with the Seminole compact that ends in 2030 and allows the tribe to share in casino revenue. The compact also gives Florida at least $1 billion over a period of five years. The state’s next payment is due in 2015.

Richter said the wise decision was to set legislation aside for now. Both the House and the Senate stalled on all gaming bills because the governor is negotiating with the Seminoles to renew the compact’s provisions. Once an agreement is reached, it must go through a ratification process. Richter said he hopes the new compact will change the revenue sharing portion of $234 annually and the tribe’s exclusive gaming provisions in regards to blackjack and card games. 

The Naples-Fort Myers track is located in Bonita Springs. Mayor Ben Nelson said the city appreciates Richter’s efforts.

A measure for slot machines at the city’s dog track received overwhelming support in 2012, but senators needed another law in place to allow the machines. A total of six counties locally passed the measure, however, the Senate’s proposal at the time was too narrow.

Nelson said the city will remain optimistic. Political affairs vice president for Miami’s Magic City Casino and the Naples track, Isadore Havenick, said slot machines revitalized Magic City.

In Naples, a racing mandate has cost the facility revenue. Naples is required to hold 410 performances every season made up of eight races each. Havenick would like to see a reduction in races.

Richter’s committee also mulled over greyhound injury reports and phasing dog racing out altogether. Attendance is scant and less money is being spent for betting on the dogs, but the mandate keeps the dogs running as they have for nearly 20 years. Activists have complained for the dogs’ safety.

Meanwhile, a proposal to end greyhound racing in Florida stalled in committee. Senator Tom Lee said lawmakers should not be considering piecemeal amendments to gaming regulations. Instead, a bill to revoke track permits should be passed to protect greyhounds. He said the greyhound industry is dead.

But economists say the state is at risk for losing tax revenue anywhere from $78,000 to $336,000 the first year greyhounds were banned. Bill SB 742 closes greyhound races, but allows poker and slot machine gaming.

The state spends approximately $4.1 million annually to regulate greyhound racing and take home is a million short of that. State economists propose a portion of tracks drop the greyhounds, one track reduces racing by half and another by over half and inter-track wagering is taxed at 1.28 percent. All in all, greyhound racing would be cut by 42 percent.

Dog owners and trainers are opposing the reduction.