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Lawmaker: Shift Florida Lottery Into Gaming Commission

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(MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images)

(MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images)

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — As lawmakers look at overhauling the state’s gambling landscape, a new gaming commission could include a shift of management for the 25-year-old Florida Lottery.

Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, on Monday suggested the Department of Lottery be placed under a proposed five-member gaming commission that would be appointed by the governor.

“Over the years we’ve had some issues regarding the advertising and some of the games that are chosen by the Department of Lottery,” said Gardiner, a Senate Gaming Committee member who is next in line to become Senate president. “I certainly would think that it would be appropriate for a commission to hear the concerns by the taxpayers on what they do.”

The proposal is the latest potential addition to three gambling-centric bills that Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, intends to roll out of the Gaming Committee.

Richter said he will meet with Gardiner to discuss the Lottery proposal.

“What I want to do is get with Sen. Gardiner and find out the rationale better,” Richter said after the committee met Monday. “I’m not necessarily opposed to that, but it wasn’t anticipated at the onset of this process.”

Gardiner didn’t discuss what the change could mean for the lottery, which is now overseen by Secretary Cynthia O’Connell, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott.

Richter had previously excluded lottery changes from discussions of gambling expansion and changes in Florida.

Last week, Richter delayed introduction of the draft legislation to Feb. 24 so the committee could complete a review of potential changes.

The committee is now expected to review the proposals the week of March 3. Richter said he doesn’t expect the comprehensive rewrite of the state’s gaming rules to be voted upon that week.

The changes could cover a wide range of issues from the “decoupling” of racing from pari-mutuel permits that allow for slot machines and card rooms, the possible authorization of one “destination resort” casino permit in Broward County and another in Miami-Dade County, and alterations to a controversial 2013 law intended to put Internet cafes out of business.

That hastily-approved law required arcades to have at least 50 coin-operated machines, with prizes valued up to 75 cents.

Richter outlined on Monday that he is looking to relax the 50-machine requirement, increase the allowed prize values, do away with the coin-only rule, distinguish amusement machines from slot machines, and exempt particular games that dispense merchandise, such as the “claw” machines.

As for keeping casinos to the two South Florida counties, with several senators noting that voters in six Florida counties have approved the expansion of slot machines, Richter said he doesn’t support “carte blanche expansion” of gaming throughout Florida.”

With Disney World among the leaders in opposing destination casinos and expansion of gambling, Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Royal Palm Beach, suggested the proposals include language that excludes “areas like Orlando” from potential casino plans.

“The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.”

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