The History of Gambling in Florida
Florida's first known casino was opened in 1888 at the Ponce de Leon Hotel; it was illegal but wealthy people were excited to belong to the membership-only Bacchus Club to play roulette and craps.
Other gambling houses popped up around the state, and eventually Miami and other cities were overrun with gambling houses and illegal horse tracks, and organized crime made its way to Florida courtesy of Al Capone the following decade.
Slot machines were legalized in 1935 as a way to recover from the Depression. Opposition to all gambling came in strong waves from conservatives and became stronger into the 1960s and 1970s.
Florida Online Poker FAQ
Q. How could Internet cafes affect online poker's chances of becoming legal?
A. If the government chooses to outlaw Internet cafes in Florida, they would have to ban the Internet games that attract patrons and outline regulations that disallow certain types of games, which would likely include all types of gambling. Online poker would be in that group of banned games, so any subsequent effort to legalize online poker in Florida would have an extra hurdle to jump.
Q. Wouldn't legal online poker sites help Indian casinos attract more traffic?
A. That is very possible. Online poker offerings could give incentives for online players to visit land-based casinos, thus increasing revenue. In addition, legal online poker sites in Florida could grow the player base to the point that even more tournaments would travel from around the world to host events there.
Q. Wasn't a member of Congress from Florida involved in the federal legislation push?
A. Representative Jim McDermott was a key player in one of the first post-UIGEA bills to regulate online gambling on the federal level. He worked with members of Congress like Barney Frank to devise a bill that would accompany the primary bill and represent the taxation portion of the idea. He was and remains a big supporter of online gambling and online poker rooms in Florida and in the United States as a whole.
Q. Will Nevada's new online poker regulations inspire Florida?
A. This is not likely, as Florida's legislators and voters tend to be more conservative and averse to any kind of gambling, unlike Nevada, which has embraced it. Florida online poker supporters may look to Florida for positive results in order to bolster their case, but it will probably not convert any opponents.
Florida Poker Legislation
Another round of legislation attempted to legalize various forms of gambling, but animal rights groups helped defeat race track bills and various organizations did the same to casinos. It wasn't until 2004 that slot machines were approved for Miami-Dade and Broward counties by a public vote. Meanwhile, the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed in the 1980s, and the Seminoles were keen on a chain of casinos (two Hard Rock casinos and five other resorts), which benefited from the slot machine bill in 2004. The state has grown to embrace the Indian casinos, which generate more than $2.2 billion combined with the lottery and pari-mutuels. The legal gambling age is also 18, lower than in most states except New York.
Outside of the Indian casinos, lottery, and racetracks, however, Florida is not open to gambling. Laws still outlaw keno, roulette, faro, and any game of cards "for money or other thing of value," which are misdemeanors. In addition, a separate section says the same of wagering on "the result of any trial or contest of skill, speed or power or endurance of human or beast", which doesn't bode well for future Florida online poker legalization.
Regulated Online Poker Sites in Florida?
Online poker in Florida is not expressly legal, but the game found a fighter in State Representative Joseph Abruzzo. He first introduced a bill (HB 77) to regulate intrastate online poker in Florida in 2010, and Abruzzo pushed for a debate on the bill in the State Assembly in March 2011 in the hopes of regulating internet poker by July 1 of that year. The state was to receive 10 percent of the revenue, which would stream many millions of dollars into the Florida economy. However, the bill died in April 2011.
The Seminoles are one of the major obstacles for any Florida online poker bill to be passed, as they control much of the legalized gambling in the state, but online poker alone has the best chance of passing. Abruzzo vowed to try again. That effort was thwarted in 2012 by serious discussions about Internet sweepstakes cafes, and any legislation to prohibit all Internet gambling would obviously hurt the chances for legal Florida online poker sites even more. To contact your legislators about these issues, visit this page: Florida Legislators.
According to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Florida has five operating casinos with racetracks and slot machines, as well as card games. More than 2,600 people are employed by those casinos, which generate more than $140 million per year in gaming tax revenue for state education needs.
Of all of the Seminole-run casinos in Florida, the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood has been the most attractive to poker players who want to attend their local tournaments as well as events on the World Poker Tour. Many Florida-based players got their start in the Hard Rock poker room and help bring more events to that location.
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