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Florida Sneaking Up on New Jersey’s Intrastate Gambling Bill

28 February 2011 by admin

New Jersey may well lose the race to become the first of the fifty states to legalize and regulate online gambling on an intrastate level. Both Florida and California have proposed legislation to legalize and regulate online gambling within their own states. But everyone thought that New Jersey, with the historic passing of an intrastate online gambling bill in both the House Assembly and State Senate, would be the first to profit from regulating online gambling.

But lo and behold here comes Florida. In just over a week, on March 8th, a piece of legislation will undergo discussion by lawmakers. The piece of legislation was proposed by Representative Joseph Abruzzo. Abruzzo sees a $4 billion deficit in Florida’s budget and that a couple hundred thousand Floridians gamble online every year; in that picture he sees that there is a major source of revenue to help fill in the hole in the Florida budget, and a way to protect the residents of that state. “We want to legalize it, regulate it, and bring revenue to Florida. To me it is common sense to protect our players.”

Currently Florida is in the hands of Republicans, who we all know have a crusade going to prevent US citizens from gambling online. Florida Republican politicians overall are against gambling expansion, both of the online and brick and mortar variety. Last year saw the end of a long standing legal battle between Republican lawmakers and the Seminole tribe over a compact that would allow the Seminoles to offer blackjack at their casinos. After months of debate, a settlement was reached that gave the Seminoles their blackjack and a twenty year exclusivity on Vegas style slot machines as well.

With Republicans in power in Florida, Abruzzo and his party will have their work cut out for them to push an intrastate online gambling bill through Florida’s legislature. There is hope however small and however odd that it comes in the form of that $4 billion deficit. According to the opinion of gaming analyst Steve Schwartz, “It is likely with a $4 billion budget deficit that Florida legislators will approve the online gambling bill. The revenue may be too much to ignore for lawmakers looking to win over public support.”

And stubbornly refusing to legalize and regulate online gambling in Florida and ignoring the potential significant revenue in order to save Floridians from themselves and to uphold person feelings about online gambling will not do much to win public support. But while there is hope that Republicans will not turn their back on some much needed revenue, never underestimate the stubbornness of Republicans who know what is best for everyone.

According to a recent data survey by Global Betting and Gaming Consultants that I read, the online gambling industry has grown by 12%. Considering the marvelous state of the economy, that is quite a growth rate over the last twelve months. The GBGC puts the worth of the online gambling industry at $29.3 billion with the potential to reach over $40 billion within the next three years. While that is the entire online gambling industry and not just Florida, that is still a very large market with a lot of growth happening; and such growth Florida cannot afford to ignore. Literally.

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