Seminole Tribe Puts Pressure on Lawmakers to Approve Compact And Gambling Bill
For years, the owners of the dying dog and horse racing industries have seen recovery from the fortunes behind slot machines at the tracks. Now the Florida legislators have to decide whether to ratify a deal with the Seminole Tribe that cements into place the parameters of gaming in the state for the next 20 years.
According to a recent article in the Bradenton Herald, market research studies show the massive millennial generation of 21-to 34-year-olds outnumber baby boomers. The millennials consider slot machines boring and table games only slightly more appealing. The studies show they prefer theme parks and restaurants, adventure travel and games of skill. Researchers warn that unless the gaming industry finds a way to capture this tech-savvy generation with online gambling or games delivered to their homes and offices through smartphones, even the games the industry is hoping to rescue will die.
“We can’t assume, as we have in previous generations that as people enter prime gaming age they are going to gravitate to the same games their predecessors did. It’s just not going to happen,” said Michael Pollock, managing director of the gaming-research company Spectrum Gaming. “Slot machines, as they are presently constituted, are clearly vulnerable.”
The industry wants a lower tax rate for its existing slots casinos, an end to the requirement horse and dog tracks run races to keep their gaming licenses — known as decoupling — and an expansion of slot machines in select communities.
Legislation moving through the House would ratify the compact and allow for some decoupling, a lower tax rate, and two additional slots licenses — one in Palm Beach County (intended for the Palm Beach Kennel Club,) and another in Miami-Dade County (likely sought by Genting, the Malaysian company that bought the Miami Herald’s bayside property, or the cqFontainebleau Miami Beach).
Jim Allen, CEO of the Seminole Tribe’s gaming empire, acknowledges for any compact to win enough votes to pass the House and Senate, the parimutuel industry must be offered a lifeline. Last week, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee agreed to ratify the compact, but it also passed a bill offering up a massive expansion of slot machines in Florida.
Senate Bill 7072 would not only authorize decoupling and lower the tax rate on slot machines from 35 percent to 25 percent, it would also authorize slots licenses in Palm Beach and five other counties that have passed countywide referenda to bring slot machines to dog and horse tracks. The bill also opens the door for more than 30 other counties to do the same.
The impetus for this is owners of the state’s once-vibrant parimutuel industry admit they have reached a point of no return.
“There is no hope for the parimutuels to ever become what they once were,” said Dave Jonas, owner of Casino Miami, home to one of the state’s last jai-alai frontons.
“I don’t believe parimutuels can be saved,” said Izzy Havenick, vice president of his family owned Magic City Casino and owner of greyhound tracks in Miami-Dade and Lee counties.
“It’s slow. It’s boring. If you live in Florida, it’s hot and rainy,” Havenick said. “Most people under 40, they will never go outside and look at the racetrack. Unless there is some way to make dog, horse racing or jai-alai exciting again, I don’t see the parimutuels surviving