Florida Introduces Online Gambling Bill

The U.S. state of Florida now has a bill in the House that would legalize and heavily regulate online gambling. Representative Joseph Abruzzo introduced the bill called the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2010. Despite “poker” being in the name, the bill would legalize all online casino games, including blackjack.

Some lawmakers in Florida have been trying to get blackjack approved in Florida casinos for a while. Governor Charlie Crist has twice reached a deal with the Seminole tribe to allow legal blackjack tables in their tribal casinos. However, both times the state House has rejected the deals. There are also plans to open up resort casinos in the state, though there is no bill yet for that. In the meantime, the idea of playing blackjack online in Florida has been overlooked.

There is no current law in Florida that makes online gambling either legal or illegal. In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed as part of the SAFE Port Act. Though that law doesn’t make online gambling illegal, it does allow for the government to seize funds and punish financial institutions that are used for “illegal” online gambling, though it does not define what gambling is illegal. For that reason, many financial institutions, including credit card companies Visa and Mastercard, can no longer be used for online gambling.

If Abruzzo’s bill passes and is signed into law, online gambling would be clearly made legal in the state of Florida and the government would regulate and tax the industry. Part of the terms for operating an online casino used by Floridians would be to pay a $500,000 application fee and a $1,000 annual licensing fee, in addition to being heavily taxed (the proposal is 20% of the revenue). The state government will place limits on the time you can spend gambling and amount that can be gambled. In addition, they will certify that all software used is safe and fair for the players.

UIGEA is currently being challenged at the federal level. Separate bills in the U.S. House and Senate propose to repeal the law, though neither has been discussed on the floor yet. Even if the UIGEA is not repealed, though, the law allows for states to legalize and regulate online gambling within their own borders.

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