03/04/2016 6:15PM

Florida decoupling bill declared dead


Legislation that would have radically changed the gambling landscape in Florida was declared officially dead on Friday night after the state’s House of Representatives failed to take up the bills, following in the Senate’s lead earlier this week.

The legislation was declared dead after the Florida House failed on Friday to consider a heavily amended bill that had been approved by the House Finance and Tax Committee. On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee removed its versions of similar bills from its docket, and afterward, leaders of the Senate said they had no intention of addressing the legislation at this session.

The legislation was designed to approve a $3 billion gambling compact negotiated late last year between the Seminole Indian tribe and Gov. Rick Scott regarding the operation of the tribe’s seven casinos. However, the bills also became a vehicle for a number of other gambling provisions, including a controversial section allowing most parimutuel facilities to “decouple” their racing licenses from their casino licenses.

Although the bills would have allowed all of the state’s dog tracks to decouple, they also included provisions protecting live racing at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, along with an annual $40 million subsidy for purses and breeders’ awards at the tracks.

The failure of the legislation likely means that the provisions within the bills, such as decoupling or the purse pool for Gulfstream and Tampa, will not be taken up separately by the legislature this year, as they were crafted in relation to terms within the negotiated compact with the Seminoles.

The Seminoles are expected to operate their gambling properties under the terms of a compact that expired last year while they open a new round of negotiations with Scott. The state and the tribe also have competing lawsuits that may be resolved this summer, and the results of those suits may influence the talks between the two parties.