Bahamas Gambling Industry Fearful Of Florida Senate Casino Bills
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If there is anyone that has a bigger interest in the outcome of the casino gambling talks that are ongoing in the Florida Legislature than residents of Florida, it is the Bahamas. The island stands to lose millions if the current deals being discussed are placed into law.
On Wednesday, the Florida Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved two new casino gambling Bills that could change the entire landscape of the industry throughout the entire East Coast of the US. The Bills call for expanded gambling at state pari-mutuels, and full scale casinos for the Seminole Indian casinos.
“Don’t kid yourself. We are a gaming state, so why wouldn’t we want to be the cream of the crop rather than losing citizens going somewhere else?” asked the sponsor of the two Bills and SRIC Chairman, Dennis Jones.
Right now, those citizens that Jones is speaking about are taking short plane trips or cruises over to the Bahamas. The island has full casino gambling with games that are not offered in Florida such as craps and roulette.
That may all change, however, under the new Bills and a subsequent compact with the Seminole Indians. The Seminoles would get craps and roulette to go with their already added blackjack and baccarat games. State pari-mutuels would also benefit from gaining blackjack.
In addition to the blackjack, the pari-mutuels would receive something even more valuable to their continued existence, a tax break. Under the new Bills, their tax rate would fall from fifty to thirty five percent on slot machine gaming.
Jones estimates that the state will bring in additional $1 billion annually by making these changes to the current law. That is a figure that has some analysts questioning where that money will be coming from.
“If these Bills, or any similar Bills, are passed in Florida, it would cripple the casino gambling industry in the Bahamas,” said observer Gary Peters, “all of the Florida residents that head to the Bahamas, would no longer have a need to travel there, and people from other states would come to Florida to gamble instead of going to the Bahamas.”
The Senate Bills are extremely different than the ones being proposed in the House, but they do have the backing of Governor Charlie Crist, who is desperately trying to increase revenue for a large budget deficit. Crist had already signed a gambling compact with the Seminole Indians, but it was voided by the state Supreme Court.
Crist voiced his support for the Senate Bills on Tuesday, reiterating his point that he is “open to any idea that will help us get the compact.”
While the governor and many Floridians are crossing their fingers hoping the expanded casino gambling happens, the island of the Bahamas waits, looking on with the fear of what could be disaster in the making.
Atlantic City May Move To Full Ban of Smoking in Casinos
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Atlantic City has always prided itself on being a leader along with Las Vegas in the casino gambling industry. Last year, the city created a partial ban on smoking in their casinos.
Now, they are setting their sights on making all of their casinos totally smoke free. The City Council will try and turn the entire casino floors at the eleven city casinos into no smoking zones.
Currently, no more than twenty five percent of the casino floor can have smoking. That is not doing enough according to Councilmen who are trying to make casinos completely smoke free.
“There has been a year of compromise, and the public health issues are compelling. It’s really time to cut bait here and let’s go forward,” said Councilman Bill Ward.
Ward will be the one to introduce the new non smoking measure to the rest of his peers at a meeting next week. The laws that went into effect last year called for certain things to be done at casinos in the city.
Up until now, walled off ventilation areas that were supposed to be built by casinos have not been done in any of the eleven casinos. Ward believes that unless a full ban goes into effect, casinos will not comply with current laws.
The issue of smoking in casinos has been a hot topic around the country. More and more states are going to non smoking casinos. Not surprisingly, workers in casinos are pushing for these laws to help their health.
The workers in casinos are starting to be represented by unions, which is a strong reason why these non smoking laws are being pushed through all of a sudden around the country.
Atlantic City Casino Poker Room Hosting Illegal Gambling Ring
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In what is being considered one of the most serious mob operations in the history of Atlantic City, 23 people were arrested in a sting on an illegal gambling ring.
Operation High Roller, as it was called, focused in on The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, where police say there was an illegal gambling ring that was being run out of the casinos poker room.
The casino itself was not an accomplice to the crimes as the police say they helped in the sting operation by allowing them to use casino surveillance video.
The Philadelphia mob is what police feel is at the head of the operation as they were able to link money from the casino to wire rooms that were located in Philadelphia.
Six employees of the casino were also arrested in the sting and they are likely to lose their licenses. Four men that were arrested were the links to the Philly mob.
The ring was apparently a sports gambling operation, which would make sense since there are no sportsbooks located in Atlantic City.
The city has worked hard over the years to keep organized crime out and was successful in their efforts, but in recent years they have lightened in their attempts to keep the mob out.
Maryland Casino Slot Machines Measure on Ballot for November 2008
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In a photo finish, Maryland lawmakers have approved a voter referendum on slots that may save the state’s historic horse-racing industry. After years of bitter debate and acrimony, legislators narrowly passed a bill placing the future of slots in Maryland before the state’s voters on the ballot in November of 2008.
Like several other states before them, Maryland has found the installation of slot machines to be the path most likely to shore up the floundering business at Pimlico, the home of the Preakness Stakes, and other tracks.
Because of complications in Maryland law, the law would actually take the form of an amendment to the state constitution. Still, Governor O’Malley and his allies pushed the plan as necessary for the state’s well-being.
Not only was the referendum passed to the voters, but an implementation system was set up in a separate measure, allowing for dispersal of expected revenues to education, which gets the lion’s share at 48.5%, increased purses at racing tracks, and local governments, along with slot operators.
The president of the Maryland Jockey Club, Louis J. Raffetto, Jr., was quoted by a local paper as saying Maryland’s racing industry might now have a fighting chance to survive.
Antigua Wins Sanctions of Only $21m Per Year in Internet Gambling Case
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Antigua was awarded $21 million in sanctions from the US over a law (UIGEA) that breaks WTO rules. Antigua won their case at the WTO and claimed they should be compensated up to $3.4 billion per year to replace their lost revenue stream.
The $21 million Antigua won in arbitration today was $3.38 billion less than they had desired and $20.5 million more than the US claimed they owed the small island nation.
The sanctions will allow Antigua to offer pirated copies of music, movies, and software from the United States, but the amount they will be allowed to pirate will not have a significant effect on any American industry.
The world-wide online gambling industry, estimated to be worth more than $10 billion per year, was hoping these sanctions were so strong that the likes of Microsoft, Time Warner, and Disney would be forced to speak up to challenge current US Internet gambling laws.
The Internet gambling community will take this as one of the final blows in its fight to restore freedom and fair trade across the world. The only hope for the industry now is the iMEGA case in the US that challenges the UIGEA law, and Barney Frank’s bill HR 2046, meant to legalize online gambling. Neither situation offers too much hope in an industry that has taken one hard left to the stomach too many over the past two years.
Comments from Antigua attorney Mark Mendel and US WTO spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel are still being awaited.