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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Florida Follies, Bush Style

- A bill that is set to come out of a key committee in the Florida House would limit the slot machines at Broward County racetracks to the “Class II” machines which are currently in use at Indian gaming facilities in the state, rather than the Las Vegas-style Class III slot machines that produce bigger payoffs. Though the specific type of machine was apparently never explicitly specified in the run-up to the referendum in which voters approved slots, it was generally presumed that the vote dealt with the real deal, and the idea that they could be the Class II machines, which are often referred to as “bingo-style” machines, wasn't floated by Governor Jeb Bush until shortly after the vote. The idea was also included in a list of “suggestions” he released this week, some of which, such as limiting operation to just 12 hours a day, are included in the House proposal.

But other suggestions by the Governor, who had hypocritically pledged that he would bow to the will of the people despite his staunch opposition to gambling, are clearly designed to severely limit the impact of slots, and some were not included in the House proposal.

For example, the House does not embrace the governor's proposal for taxing slots. Bush wants to impose a 40 percent tax rate on the first 500 slot machines at Broward's four parimutuel facilities, then increase the rate by 5 percent for every 500 machines -- up to a tax rate of 100 percent.

Bush also wants to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol and allow no ATMs within the slot halls. The House bill does not have those restrictions.

The House does include the governor's suggestion that gamblers be banned from using credit cards or debit cards in slot machines and also prohibits any cash advances to gamblers.

The governor also opposes the industry practice of offering free drinks, meals or gifts to gamblers. [Miami Herald]
His tax proposal is an obviously blatant attempt to put a ceiling on the number of slot machines that will be placed. Bush and the House are headed for a showdown with the Senate, whose proposal will include the Class III machines, a flat 30% tax rate, and oppose many of the other restrictions sought by the governor and House leaders.

- Yesterday, Bush cited the opinion of a Dr. Cheshire, a man he called a “renowned neurologist,” who opined, based purely on visual observation, that Terri Schiavo was not in a permanent vegetative state, but appeared to be “minimally conscious.” When the NY Times asked two noted neurologists/ethicists about this doctor and his opinion, their replies were “Who?” and, from a man who has examined her on behalf of the Florida courts,
"I have no idea who this Cheshire is…..He has to be bogus, a pro-life fanatic. You'll not find any credible neurologist or neurosurgeon to get involved at this point and say she's not vegetative." [NY Times]

- More on Shamardal, Godolphin’s latest Derby prospect, who they hope will springboard into Kentucky with a good performance in Dubai this weekend.