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Florida—Will it Become the Next Vegas?

29 December 2010 by admin

What do casinos and Mickey Mouse have in common? A home in Florida.

With some changes made in the gambling laws this past spring in the Sunshine State, the traffic has increased at the Florida casinos, causing some to wonder if Florida will become the next second in popularity casino state. Nothing could top Las Vegas after all. But Atlantic City up in New Jersey has not been faring well the last few years since the United States economy did the equivalent to an adult making a cannonball into a swimming pool—fast drop and a lot of waves radiating outward. Atlantic City is now also contenting with a rather nasty blizzard too. A history of tourism and nice sunny weather, not to mention all the beaches, could make Florida a very enticing place for the casino community to find a new second.

What made the change in Florida? Why the sudden draw? With a strong Seminole presence it is not like brick and mortar casinos are anything new. Nor are the racinos scattered around the state. Now Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi is proud to call Florida home with more poker pros looking to make a move to Florida, and the World Poker Tour booked the Seminole Hollywood casino for a televised tournament next April. So what changed?

Quite simply put, the law. There were two major changes in Florida’s gambling laws in regard to what is now allowed in the state. For one the Seminole tribe finally settled their several years long battle with Florida lawmakers on their right to blackjack. Originally, they were not allowed to offer patrons the table game. Then they struck a compact with Governor Charlie Crist that gave them blackjack tables in all seven of their casinos, with tax revenue from the table games to go to the state’s education programs. Florida lawmakers got in a snit and a several year battle ensued that was finally settled this past May: the Seminoles can have a five year exclusivity on blackjack, only offer blackjack at five of their seven casinos, and the tax revenue goes into the general state fund. Out of the revenue $1.75 million will be allotted for state funded gambling addiction programs as well.

Seems like a bit of a steep price to pay for blackjack at only five of the seven casinos, but at least blackjack is now allowed, it is perfectly legal and the state is going to receive more than a billion dollars in taxes from blackjack alone. And that money is well needed for a state that depends on tourism, and whose tourism economy—like all tourism economies in the US—has suffered as a result of the economic cannonball.

The second big change came as a result of the deal struck between the Seminoles and the state for blackjack. Florida lawmakers wanted to make sure the racinos and non-Sovereign Nation casinos did not suffer as a result of the Seminoles getting a five year exclusivity to blackjack and a twenty year exclusivity on slot machines. So to give other casinos something else to offer the state’s limit on the maximum amount a player can pay to play in a game of poker was changed. It was changed to no limit. It used to be that the maximum amount a poker player in Florida could pay to play was $2. As you can well imagine the death of that limit was well-received. “The Grinder,” one of the most well-known poker players of Florida, said, “[This is] a dream come true. There is nothing better than playing poker with the beaches.”

Now rather than winning $20 or so in a game of poker players have the opportunity to win a heck of a lot more. Just compare the implications of a change from only being able to buy-in for $2 to some of the poker tables now out in Florida with a table minimum of $50—poker players are able to set themselves up with opportunities of win thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in a single game.

But there is some speculation that Florida will transform itself into the next casino playground, second to Las Vegas. And while I can see where such a concern comes from, Florida becoming one of the gambling Meccas is unlikely. Why is that? Well while the casinos and their joint resorts are built up around some of the world’s most famous beaches, there is a far greater world-renowned attraction in the center of the state: Disney World, home of four Disney theme parks, two Disney water parks and several Disney resorts. That means that Florida is also a family destination on the tourism map. And it is very hard to compete with Mickey, who now comes $80 a head for one park.

Florida residents, while making room to accommodate the increased number of tourists coming for the high stakes poker, are not likely to find their state home to another Vegas thanks to also being home to the Disney World Resort that put Orlando and indeed Florida as well on the map.

One Response to “Florida—Will it Become the Next Vegas?”

  1. jennifer says:

    I think Florida would be a perfect “second Vegas”!
    Trust me not every one only wants to go hang with Mickey and Harry Potter.
    The well-to-do blue hairs would love a classy “Belagio-style” casino resort to go to, and the 20 to 30 something’s would definitely like an option with more sex-appeal then the parks and without the price premium of South Beach.