Emphasising his opposition to the expansion of gambling in Florida, because of a perceived detrimental effect to families and economic development in the state, Governor Jeb Bush yesterday signed the bill allowing Vegas-style slot machines at four pari-mutuel venues in Broward County. The constitutional amendment was approved by Broward voters last year and the Florida legislature will now have six months in which to detail operational regulations.
The proposed high tax rate of 50% on the slots operations has already led to some projects at the pari-mutuels undergoing a rethink. Original expansion plans at Hollywood Greyhound Track are being altered to renovations to house up to 1,500 slot machines, and Isle of Capri at Pompano Park anticipates development budget cuts. The US$171 million upgrade at Gulfstream Park should be ready to open within six months. Dania Jai-Alai has yet to comment on its proposed slot machine plans.
The new slots operations will be monitored by agents and analysts hired by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for the purpose. State schools in Florida are expected to benefit by over US$200 million from yearly slot machine tax revenue once the racinos are up and running. Many believe that the new gambling opportunities will revitalise the ageing pari-mutuels, bringing security for the existing industry and creating more employment. The already struggling gambling cruise industry, however, may find the competition a final nail in its coffin. (E-01.05.06)
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