Pending Federal, State Legislation Threatens

Tuesday, August 31, 1999
Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) could severely damage Florida's offshore gaming industry. Under existing federal law, offshore gaming in international waters is legal, unless state pass laws specifically prohibiting the activity. Wolf's bill (H.R. 316) would reverse the situation, requiring states wanting offshore casino boats to pass laws allowing them. However, state assistant attorney general Jon Glogau said passage of the Wolf bill would instantly nullify the 1987 amendment by then-state Sen. Gwen Margolis, which allowed day-cruise gaming. Unless Florida passed a new law after enactment of the Wolf bill, day-cruise gaming would be illegal. In any event, slots would be prohibited in state waters, depriving day-cruise operations of their primary source of revenue. Ralph Haben, a Florida gaming lobbyist, said passage of the Wolf bill would effectively kill the Florida day-cruise industry, which cannot be profitable without slots. In other states, Indiana Rep. P. Eric Turner (R) introduced H.B. 2008, which would impose a gambling moratorium in the state. It provides that until January 1, 2004, no types of gambling currently not lawful will become lawful. In addition, the maximum number of riverboat licenses may not be increased. Turner also introduced bill H.B. 2009, which would abolish riverboat gaming effective July 1, 2002. Both bills were referred to the Committee on Public Policy, Ethics and Veterans Affairs.

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