Broward and Miami-Dade counties would each open one Las Vegas style hotel casino if a bill introduced on Monday works its way through the Florida Legislature.
A new commission would oversee gambling and voters would get the final say on all future gaming issues.
That's the proposal from Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chair of the Senate Committee on Gaming, which will discuss three bills next week. He emphasizes his bills are just a starting point.
The BB&T Center in Sunrise, the Hollywood Diplomat and the Fontainebleu in Miami Beach have all signaled interest in casinos. Executives from the Las Vegas Sands and Genting Malaysia Berhad have lobbied legislators for two years to change laws so they could construct casinos in South Florida that would draw tourists.
Broward and Miami-Dade county voters paved the way for more gambling in recent years, allowing slots at eight area horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons. Poker is legal statewide at similar pari-mutuels.
While Richter's Senate committee has been working, the Florida House has not shown much appetite to change anything.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said any House gambling bill was contingent on Gov. Rick Scott negotiating with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which currently has exclusive rights to blackjack and other table games.
Richter's bill requiring voter approval of any gambling expansion beyond what happens this year is an idea that Weatherford originally floated.
"My personal goal is to pass a constitutional amendment that gives the power and authority of expansion back to the people," said Weatherford, a vocal gambling foe. "Whatever the least amount of expansion that would have to be done to get that, I'm willing to talk about. We don't know what that looks like yet."
Richter's bill would create the Department of Gaming Control with jurisdiction over gambling. The department would regulate existing casinos and select one company in Broward and one in Miami-Dade to build a large resort that would have full casino games. Voters would need to approve in a countywide referendum.
The lottery would be under the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee.
But all his plans are just a starting point, Richter points out in a memo. Monday's meeting will not include a vote, and is likely the first of several meetings and amendments, he said.
"Rather, I will present the bills and answer questions," Richter wrote in a memo, adding they will "finally introduce bills that are well crafted and thoroughly vetted."
Richter's proposal is a package of three bills: the constitutional amendment, the destination casinos and gambling commission together, and a public-record exemptions for casinos from revealing proprietary confidential information when applying for a resort license.
The bills do not address tax rates or blackjack for pari-mutuels. The racinos argue that destination casinos would crush them without those concessions.
Nsortal@SunSentinel.com. Staff writer Aaron Deslatte contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun