One step to go for new Florida poker laws

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The only thing standing between Florida poker players and higher limits and longer hours on July 1 is the Florida House.

And that body is expected to approve legislation on Monday. Gov. Charlie Crist’s signature is assured.

Today, the Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 622 by a vote of 19-9. SB 622 approves the gaming compact that Crist and the Seminole Tribe of Florida agreed to this month. More importantly to poker players, the bill also puts into effect poker laws that were passed in the 2009 legislative session but were never enacted because a gaming compact deal couldn’t be reached last year.

What does it mean for poker players?

NO MORE LIMITS
Gone is the $100 maximum buy-in for no-limit hold’em games. Gone is the $5 bet limit for limit games. Gone is the $800 buy-in limit on tournaments. In short, the only limitations on buy-ins and bet sizes will be those that individual poker rooms place on them.

LONGER HOURS
Poker rooms will no longer have to close after 12 hours. They can remain open for 18 hours Monday through Friday and for 24 hours on Saturday, Sunday and certain holidays.

OTHER CHANGES

The legislation adjusts some non-poker limitations that may have an effect on poker as well. For example, Palm Beach Kennel Club will be able to convert an unused jai-alai permit into a greyhound permit, which would allow it to open a second poker room. Nine permits have been issued for new quarter horse facilities (with two more pending) that could result in new poker rooms opening in the future, though only two or three appear viable in that regard right now. Some cost-savings are built in, too. A separate bill, Senate Bill 640, would eliminate the state’s tax on poker for most pari-mutuel rooms, which would allow rooms to reinvest that money into their facilities, marketing or operations. It is not tied to SB 622, but has passed a Senate committee and is awaiting further action.

The changes will go into effect on July 1, and apply to all pari-mutuel poker rooms and Indian poker rooms. The Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering will likely hold rulemaking sessions with poker room directors to further refine how the changes will look in practice.

Many poker rooms managers have told Ante Up privately that they are concerned that their players, accustomed to a $100 max buy-in, are at risk of losing their bankroll quickly in an uncapped environment. So expect some rooms to tread slowly on fully rolling out changes. But in essence, you’ll be right to expect bigger no-limit games, bigger limit games and new pot-limit games in most rooms almost immediately.