Florida Senate Bill Amended with Internet Poker Study Language

24 April 2009
The Florida Legislature was abuzz last week with developments regarding Internet and video poker.

One bill, Senate Bill 836, caused a flutter as card room operators made what will likely be an unsuccessful attempt to contain competition from online operators by expanding their video poker and video gaming offerings at existing pari-mutuel wagering facilities.

This effort would only compete indirectly with online operators, said Larry Walters, an attorney with the Florida firm Weston Garrou Dewitt & Walters.

“These facilities could indirectly compete to the extent that people are going to these pari-mutuel facilities -- it’s definitely not the same as sitting home,” said Mr. Walters, although he concedes that the experience of sitting in front a video poker monitor and a home computer is “indistinguishable, as far as software.”

Another bill, Senate Bill 682, has taken a major step with an amendment that will provide for a study of Internet poker to be presented to the Senate in December.

That amendment was filed on April 16 and reads:

    The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability shall perform a study and make recommendations to the Legislature by December 1, 2009, regarding the enactment of laws to provide for protection and remedies from existing and unregulated online poker activities, which currently lack oversight and consumer protection.

Jim Tabilio, the president of Poker Voters of America, a grassroots group, said he’s “delighted” that the Legislature has decided to take a look at online poker.

“The important thing is that the state is taking the right path, which is to determine whether they can protect Floridians who are already playing online. And, if they determine the best way to do that is a legal system in Florida, they’re looking at a way to tap into revenue,” said Mr. Tabilio, although he acknowledges that regulated Internet poker in Florida is probably still a long way off.

“The important thing is to start the education process. You can’t ask people to blindly accept something that’s never been done in the United States,” he added. “I think when they do look at it they’ll come to the same conclusions as a lot of other states have come to. You don't have to reinvent the wheel."

Senate Bill 682 is scheduled for a vote on Monday, April 27. More on this story as it develops.

Caroline Gallay is a staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in Columbia, Mo.