The start of Florida's legislative session may be three months away, but the to-do list is already stacking up. Senate President Don Gaetz plans to tackle gaming laws and he's doing so with the help of a special committee.
Last year proved to be difficult for lawmakers looking to control unregulated gaming. In Jackson County, the sheriff's office seized gaming machines from various businesses
Residents in Washington County voiced their opinion on slots. In January they voted to approve the use of the machines at Ebro Greyhound Park by the form of a referendum, which for Gaetz is enough of a reason to revisit the issue.
"We have appointed a gaming committee to take up the issue of gaming in our state." Gaetz says. The committee will study and evaluate the issue over the next two years, which is also around the same time the Indian compact needs to be renegotiated. In the past it gave the tribe exclusive rights to table games at some its casinos and the right to operate slots at all of them.
Representative Jimmy Patronis, took a stance on the issue, he's not in favor of the expansion of gaming. "For every dollar gained in state coffers from gaming related activities, the individual has to lose $7; that isn't a recipe for me to save the economy."
He also thinks the intentions of the new committee are to regulate gaming, not to expand it.
"What I do see an appetite in the legislature for is cleaning it up. I don't see an appetite at the executive branch or legislative branch for expanding it in any way." Patronis says.
The committee is expected to hold public meetings across the state during their term. At this time we know representative Marti Coley will serve on that committee, but a meeting date has not been set.
Mark Hess from Ebro says he applauds the efforts of the legislature to create a committee. Before acting, Ebro is waiting to see what happens. "We want the voice of Washington County voters to be heard." Hess says.