Dunbar authors column on Florida’s complex gaming market

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Attorney and lobbyist Marc Dunbar authored a comprehensive column on Florida’s political, legal and regulatory environment surrounding gaming issues in Casino Enterprise Management magazine, and offered a series of recommendations for those engaging in this complex fray.

Here are some highlights from Dunbar’s column, titled “Florida: A Market Preparing for the Future”:

“From 2002 to 2012, campaign contributions from the industry increased by an estimated 500 percent, led by giving interests affiliated with Sheldon Adelson, Genting and Florida’s gray market Internet café operations. Despite these efforts, no major changes have occurred in Florida’s approach to gaming. Florida continues to feel the brunt of industry criticisms regarding the state’s ability to regulate the industry only marginally better than the state’s ability to handle its elections. Over the years, the Florida Legislature has tasked six different state agencies with some level of gambling oversight, including five different agencies with law enforcement capabilities.”

“Capital markets are frozen to gambling deals in Florida that do not involve the Seminole tribe due to the all of the uncertainties of the market, the bankruptcies of two South Florida pari-mutuel casinos and anemic performance from the others. A further testament to the uncertainty for operators in Florida can be seen in Boyd Gaming’s recent decision to sell—at a loss—its casino site, Dania Jai Alai, which it purchased in 2007 for $150 million. Boyd spent millions in licensing fees to protect its slot machine entitlements but never moved forward with a casino operation.”

“The $64,000 question now for Florida is, can it get its act together and make lemonade from the basket of lemons that is the Florida gambling marketplace? Leading the charge in this effort are two seasoned politicians. Sen. Garrett Richter, the president pro tempore of the Florida Senate, and Rep. Rob Schenk, the powerful rules chairman of the Florida House of Representatives, have been tasked with the herculean task of cleaning up the mess and charting a course for Florida’s future as a formidable gambling state.”

“In Florida’s executive branch, Gov. Rick Scott has staked out his clear position on any gambling legislation. He has repeatedly stated that Florida’s budget will not be balanced by a large infusion of speculative revenue from the gambling industry. In addition, he has expressed his desire to have communities decide for themselves whether gambling is an appropriate addition to the local economy.”

Dunbar’s recommendations include:

1. Watch the Seminole tribe

2. Stay away from a battle with Florida’s non-gaming powerhouses

3. Pari-mutuels will be in the mix if they can get on the same page

4. Those without a flag have a tough road

5. Ignore those heralding “Pie in the Sky” strategies

6. Slot manufacturers, gaming equipment suppliers and other industry vendors need to engage