online poker games
If the sponsors of two bills have their way, Florida will be in the online game poker business this summer.
Legislation has been filed that would license the state’s pari-mutuels – horse and dog racing tracks and jai alai frontons – to tap into gambling revenues on the World Wide Web. It’s yet another proposal to help dig the state out of its $3.5 billion budget hole.
A Senate committee report last month estimated net revenue of almost $37 million by the third year of regulated poker online games. State Rep. Joseph Abruzzo said a gaming company that studied the issue estimated even more revenue. There are 900,000 Floridians registered to play online poker games, and a third of them play for money.
The bills have bipartisan support – Abruzzo, D-Wellington, and Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, are the sponsors. But it’s uncertain how many others in the Republican-dominated Legislature are ready to expand gambling.
“I really don’t have a good enough sense of the committed to say,” said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres. “I think the key will be showing clear sources of revenue.
“As to the sense of the Legislature, I think those who are dead set against it outnumber those who are dead set for it,” Caldwell said. “However, I think the majority are generally ambivalent like me.”
Regarding the specific bill proposed by Abruzzo, Caldwell said, “It appears to embrace the gambling culture that currently avails itself of non-gambling video game rooms.
“I support the current arrangement in Florida wherein nontribal gaming can only exist in the counties where we have approved its existence. Gambling is controversial enough that local communities who oppose its existence should not be burdened with it.”
In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, making it illegal for a U.S. company to run an online poker room for money. But that doesn’t keep players from competing.
One is Robbie Ciccarelli, who now plays for fun because she can’t deposit money to online poker room accounts.
“I used to play for money when it was available, and would again if it were available,” Ciccarelli said. “I think the only thing stopping the Legislature from allowing online poker games or gaming online poker is that they do not get a piece of it. People can lose just as much at the dog track, Indian casinos or these corner play places. The biggest ripoff of all is the Florida Lotto. I would rather sit in the comfort of my own home and play.