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Florida Legislator Seeks To Legalize Online Video Poker

by Staff Reporter
Posted On: 3/18/2010

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TALLAHASSEE, FL -- State Rep. Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington) on Feb. 26 filed the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2010. The lawmaker's proposal makes Florida the first state to introduce a bill in its legislature that addresses the regulation of Internet gaming.

If enacted, Abruzzo's bill would legalize and regulate online video poker. Responsibility for ongoing regulation of the market would be assigned to the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering, a program of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation within the executive branch of the state government.

In effect, Florida would supervise one or more major businesses (required to be incorporated in the Sunshine State) and countless smaller affiliates that operate online poker rooms for games played by Florida residents.

The major businesses would be the state's authorized online gambling operators of record and would each purchase a half-million-dollar license. Smaller affiliates would run online "card rooms" located on servers maintained by these large operators and would buy $1,000 licenses each.

The state of Florida would take 20% off the top of gross receipts generated by online poker before the major operators and their smaller affiliates split the remaining revenues.

Abruzzo claimed that nearly a million Floridians already gamble online. Legalizing and taxing the activity would raise more than $200 million a year for the state's coffers, he said.

The U.S. Internet gambling ban passed by Congress several years ago contains a provision that explicitly recognizes the right of individual states to legalize online gambling within their respective jurisdictions. In recent months, the legislatures in California, Iowa and New Jersey also have debated the legalization online gambling.

To date, however, Florida has seen the only actual bill introduced in the state legislature for this purpose. Iowa lawmakers considered the issue during the first two weeks of March, but discussions wound down after supporters realized they didn't have the votes for immediate passage, said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines).