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Florida Legislature Passes Gaming Bill, Uncapped No-limit Poker Approved

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The Florida Legislature approved the further expansion of poker in the state today, including the removal of a maximum buy-in for no-limit poker and the elimination of a maximum bet per round in limit games.

The bill, SB 788, was the subject of contentious negotiations this week between Florida’s State Senate and House. Once a consensus version had been hammered out, the Senate first passed SB 788 by a vote of 31-9, while in the House, the vote was 82-35. The 15-year agreement, pending the approval of the Seminole tribal nation, will generate at least $150 million in annual payments from the Seminoles to the state. Governor Charlie Crist will have until August 31st to negotiate a compact with the Seminoles, and then the Florida Legislature must approve the compact for the bill to go into effect.

The approved legislation, including the expanded poker
offerings for all Florida locations spreading the game, replaces a compact that Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminole nation negotiated in 2007, allowing slot machines and card games (including poker) at seven Florida Seminole casinos. In 2008, the Florida Supreme Court invalidated the compact, stating that Crist overstepped his authority by not seeking the Legislature's approval before signing the agreement.

The new legislation also allows for casinos and cardrooms located at horse tracks, dog tracks, and jai alai frontons in Florida to offer the expanded no-limit poker, which removes the $100 maximum buy-in and the $5 maximum bet per betting round in limit games. poker tournament buy-ins limits will also be removed, as a $1,000 limit had been imposed from previous legislation. This opens the door for major poker events to consider Florida as a venue.

The new bill allows cardrooms to be open 18 hours a day Mondays through Fridays, and 24 hours on the weekends. The gambling age in Seminole casinos increases from 18 to 21, matching the minimum age found elsewhere. Another cardroom in Miami-Dade county will be added, as Hialeah Park will be reopened to offer quarterhorse racing after capital improvements are performed at the historical landmark, which was closed in 2001.

To see how far poker in Florida has come, one needs to look back to when parimutuel facilities were allowed to open cardrooms in 1997. A few years earlier, low-limit games were allowed in people's homes and community centers, establishing a maximum of $10 per pot. This law carried over to the new cardrooms, creating games where players just tossed a dollar or two into the pot to create the maximum pot and the hand would be played to a conclusion. In 2003, the $10 pot limit was removed, replaced by a $2 maximum bet per round with a limit of three raises per betting round.

The laws in place today were established in 2007, when no-limit poker was introduced to Florida. However, the law had a maximum buy-in of $100, which meant the biggest game being spread was a $5/10 NL game. Shortly after the law passed, the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood interpreted this law a bit differently from the others, allowing players to make repeated $100 buy-ins. Players then rebought quickly to build stacks with thousands of dollars in chips, creating a deep-stacked game that brought many to the tables for the five days the game ran. After being pressured by Florida officials, Hard Rock gaming executives reinterpreted their first interpretation and returned to the state's mandated and restricted $100 maximum buy-in.

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