Florida is the Latest State to Fail at Legislating Online Poker

A recent attempt to regulate online poker in the state of Florida failed by a 2-2 tie in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The bill introduced by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) would have regulated online poker by allowing Florida residents to play each other operating out of pari-mutuel card rooms in existing casinos, dog and horse track racing venues and jai alai arenas. It was estimated gross receipts including licensing fees taxed at 10% would have yielded $10.5 million annually plus 4 % of profits would have been used to increase purses for horse track and dog racing. The measure was aimed at preventing state revenue from going to offshore operators.

A strong opponent of the proposed bill was the Florida Sheriff’s Association. Frank Messersmith, a particularly vocal lobbyist for the group referred to legalizing online poker as "…a form of digital escape to the anti-social people…" and called online poker "internet crack" targeting young men.

Opposition to the bill also came from The Poker Players Alliance which represents over one million members together with the interests of offshore operators. A spokesman for this group said the federal approach to regulation of online poker is preferable because the skill level of the game and prize winnings will be reduced if play is limited to one state.

By regulating online poker, it is estimated state and federal authorities could potentially collect as much as $3 billion dollars revenue. In the meantime, many offshore gaming sites are collecting the lucrative profits from this multi-million dollar industry.

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