Simulated gambling has historically had a rough start in the state of Florida, which lacks much of the casino liberalism found in states like Nevada and New Jersey, where the bright lights of Las Vegas and Atlantic City also seem to enlighten the populace. Nonetheless, Florida has some history with gambling, given that the one or two residents of the Sunshine State have made the World Series of Poker Final Table and represented the sandy white beaches of home well.
Online poker has historically fared quite well in Florida, as well, which explains why so many residents are clamoring for the widespread introduction of simulated gambling into more readily-accessible locations – read, internet cafes and other online get-togethers. With the current laws, however, there’s some serious debate over the legality of the mobile devices that would serve as the main form of device-driven gambling games. Florida, like most states in the U.S., prohibits unregulated gambling of any kind. The over two dozen casinos that operate legally within the Florida state borders is proof-positive that there’s a market for simulated gambling – and even outright online video poker – but the legislative body has been reluctant thus far.
The Gambling Devices Bill, known as CS/HB 217 – Prohibition of simulated Gambling Devices, was an attempt back in 2011 to try and head off the online gambling revolution that so many Floridians seemed open to embracing. As if in response to the public’s desire, the Bill ran up against many problems as it made its way through Reading after Reading and was postponed, restarted and then withdrawn from consideration. Ultimately, the bill died in the Appropriations Committee and hasn’t been heard from since. Even though unregulated gambling is still illegal in Florida, the use of simulated gambling devices to promote or conduct games of chance, game promotions and drawings isn’t prohibited.
State Rep Joseph Abruzzo’s HB 77 Bill also wanted to banish online poker in Florida, even if the gaming center operated out-of-state and was accessed via internet from within Florida. Let’s be clear: online poker wasn’t illegal; it’s just that any business promoting it couldn’t make money from it if the business was based within the U.S. Basically, then, the online poker was more like simulated gambling, since the prizes weren’t physical, as defined by the UIGEA of 2006. Abruzzo’s Bill failed in 2011 – it wanted ten percent of the revenue from online gambling to line the state’s coffers – and failed again in 2012, when the Native American Seminole tribe used their considerable lobbying power to strike it down.
For any Floridian wishing clarification on the issue of simulated gambling, clear-cut laws are still in the works. Florida just passed Bill HB3, which all but outlaws internet cafes in Florida, where the playing of simulated gambling games results in the exchange of goods or money. Although the bill isn’t expected to stand in its current, raw form, playing online gambling using your computer, mobile device or other can, technically, be considered to be illegal. It’s best to familiarize oneself with the rules and regulations of any casino you visit, ascertaining whether or not they accept US players, and if Florida is on the list of states that are prohibited.