Florida Mulls Tribal Gaming Compact as Alabama Bill Dies

Florida lawmakers have removed an iGaming inclusion from a new tribal gaming compact, while Alabama’s gambling hopes for 2021 are likely over after the state’s 2021 session ended without legislation approval. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Florida progresses, Alabama falters

It’s a big week for supporters of gambling in the states of Florida and Alabama. Lawmakers met to discuss sports betting legislation on Monday with mixed results.

In Florida, the legislature discussed a tribal gaming compact agreed in April between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe. During the three-hour hearing, lawmakers announced the removal of any mention of online casino from the agreement.

Lawmakers failed to vote on Sen. Jim McClendon’s lottery and casino bill

Alabama’s hopes for gambling expansion died on Monday during the last day of the legislative session. Lawmakers failed to vote on Sen. Jim McClendon’s lottery and casino bill after negotiations broke down earlier this month.

In more positive news for gambling backers, Missouri bills seeking to authorize and regulate sports wagering advanced to the Emerging Issues committee. Meanwhile, Massachusetts state senators are hoping to legalize betting through budget amendments.

Additionally, Texas casino and sports betting hopes hit a dead end when the legislature failed to vote on two bills last week, while Nebraska lawmakers have banned in-state college wagering in developing legislation.

Florida lawmakers strip iGaming

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced in late April that he had reached a new compact deal with the Seminole Tribe. Expected to generate at least $2.5bn in revenue for the state in the next five years, the agreement would introduce online and retail sports betting at casinos while expanding other gambling options.

During Monday’s special session meeting, House Speaker Chris Sprowls announced that lawmakers had removed any reference to iGaming within the legislation. The original compact did not permit online casino outright, but left the door open to negotiations regarding the vertical.

As reported by AP News, House Select Committee on Gaming chairman Rep. Randy Fine said the original inclusion concerned lawmakers. “That was by far the number one issue,” he commented. “People were not comfortable with agreeing to online slot machines from your couch.”

Two House Committees will meet Tuesday to consider sports betting, while the Senate will vote on six bills related to gaming the same day. Legislators are on track to approve the compact by mid-week. Under the new terms, Florida’s legal sportsbooks would launch in October 2021

Alabama lawmakers fail to agree

Gambling backers in Alabama have had a difficult time so far this year. In March, Senator Del Marsh failed to gain enough support for his gambling expansion bill, and it looks like history has just repeated itself with Sen. Jim McClendon’s legislation.

His bill, introduced in March, sought to introduce nine casinos, sports betting, and a state lottery. Due to a breakdown in negotiations earlier this month however, the bill’s passage relied on a vote on the final day of the legislative session on Monday. That vote never took place, with House Speaker Mac McCutcheon opting against further debate.

We would need a plan and an agreement on that plan for her to consider that”

Governor Kay Ivey has indicated that she would only call a special session to discuss the legislation if lawmakers could agree – something they have failed to do up to this point. “We would need a plan and an agreement on that plan for her to consider that,” Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said Monday.

Progress in Missouri and Massachusetts

Four bills seeking to legalize sports betting in Missouri have made progress this week. HB 1024, HB 619, HB 1364, and HB 730 will go to the Missouri House of Representatives Emerging Issues Committee next. If passed, they will then move to a floor vote before advancing to the Senate.

Together, the legislation sets out the framework for legal sports betting. HB 1024 would authorize online and land-based sports betting through the state’s riverboat casinos, while the other bills establish the regulation of the industry with varying licensing and taxation fees.

HB 1024 would set a tax rate of 6.25% for sports wagering and an annual fee of $50,000 for operators. HB 619 establishes a tax of 6% and annual fee of $10,000, while HB 730 and HB 1364 require a yearly fee of $20,000 and tax of 6.75%.

Similarly, lawmakers in Massachussetts have increased efforts to pass sports betting legislation. Senators have included sports wagering within a list of amendments regarding the state’s $47.6bn budget.

Gov. Charlie Baker indicated his support for a legal market in January within his own budget proposal. However, lawmakers later left it out of their final 101-page bill.

Texas bills stall as Nebraska shapes betting market

Any hopes for casino gambling and sports betting in Texas this year now seem unlikely after the legislature failed to vote on gambling legislation. The voting deadline passed for House Joint Resolution 133 last Monday. It would have allowed Texans to vote on the introduction of casinos in four major cities. Lawmakers also did not discuss sports betting legislation.

With the legislature’s session due to end on May 31, it is unlikely lawmakers will consider a gambling expansion again until 2022.

Meanwhile, Nebraska legislators are continuing to shape sports betting legislation. Last Thursday, lawmakers agreed to ban in-state college wagering in the hope of securing support for a combined bill. If passed, LB 560 and LB 561 would legalize casino wagering at state racetracks, including the addition of sports betting. Legislators stripped mobile keno from the bill earlier this month.

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