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Florida senator pushes back casino bill proposal a week

There has been more than two years of casino hotel talk in Tallahassee, so what’s one more week?

Sen. Garrett Richter, head of the Senate committee on gaming, had planned to release a draft of a comprehensive gambling bill on Monday. But he announced Friday that his bill will need to wait a week. That’s because the committee didn’t get through all of its discussion during its two-hour session this week, and he wants to discuss it all.

“As it turned out, we did not finish the workshop on ‘elements and options’ for inclusion in the proposed committee bill,” he wrote in a memo released Friday. “Our discussion was helpful and productive, but there simply was not enough time to cover the issues presented.

“That being the case I think the right choice now is to postpone filing the proposed committee bill until the committee completes its high-level review.

That means the committee will continue “elements and options” on Monday and he’ll publish the proposed committee bill on Feb. 24. (Feb. 17 is President’s Day.)

Then the bill would be voted on March 3, he said.

During the discussion last Monday, Richter said he favored one casino-hotel each in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Committee members also generally favored a gambling commission, and were split on decoupling (the idea that dog tracks, horse tracks and jai-alai frontons would not have to offer those pari-mutuel events in order to maintain a slot license).

If I may indulge in a bit of commentary here, I'd mark this is a necessary move. I watched the discussion and the committee members had more questions about more details than I think Richter was expecting. (And certainly more than I was expecting.) He's done a great job leading this committee, but it's a committee, not one guy. So he needs them to be in with both feet on whatever it is they pass.

Las Vegas interests and Genting have been asking the legislature for two years to consider allowing large casinos at non-pari-mutuels in at least South Florida. A bill was proposed in 2012 but it died in committee.

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