Florida Looking at Online Poker

28 January 2011

Vegas style casinos in Florida? Some legislators in the state can see that happening in a few years. Some legislators however, like Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, think that there are better ways to increase revenue within the state now instead of later.

Abruzzo is currently a sponsor of a bill that will allow online poker portals within the horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons in Florida. According to Abruzzo Florida residents already are gambling online so why shouldn’t the state get a cut of the revenues.

According to Rep. Abruzzo, “It’s common sense. There are hundreds of thousands of players in Florida in unregulated and unprotected offshore sites. Why not legalize, regulate and bring in revenue from something that’s already occurring?”

Interestingly, two of the major opponents of this bill are PokerStars.com and FullTiltPoker.com, both of whom would prefer Florida to legalize their sites instead of going through the pari-mutuels. Their ultimate goal is to have a national law regulating online poker and not for it to get a state by state approval.

So the big dilemma here is money. While most of the players’ groups like the Poker Player Alliance is backing a national law. John Pappa, the executive director of the Poker Players Alliance said,

“Internet poker is best for the consumer when you can have a critical mass of players from all jurisdictions and all time zones meeting on a site and playing.”

The individual states are not so excited about it. Abruzzo has stated that a national law would not be in Florida’s best interest and you can bet other states feel exactly the same way.

“If they’d pass it (a Federal law), we would receive hardly any revenue,” Abruzzo said.

Under this bill, there would be up to three poker sites would have a contract with the state and serve as hubs. Then Florida’s 23 pari-mutuals’ card rooms would act as portals under the hubs. Through these portals, poker players could click through and join a pool of other Florida players. The hubs would rake the pots as in normal poker games and the state would receive 10% of that rake as it does with the current brick-and-mortar poker rooms.

There have been meetings between the state and Vegas casinos but this could take years to develop. Rep. Joseph Abruzzo says that approving online poker in Florida could help the state as soon as July 1st and help a floundering state budget just in time.

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