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Tax on slots revenue jumps to 55 percent in House plan

That's unworkable, say parimutuel spokespeople, who back a Senate bill's tax rate of 30-35 percent. Taxes from the Broward slots will go to schools.

Associated Press
Published April 23, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - The proposed tax rate for slot machines in Broward County jumped Friday to 55 percent as a House bill moved through its last committee.

"We are responsible for not leaving a dime on the table," Rep. Frank Attkisson, R-Kissimmee, told the House Fiscal Council before its unanimous vote.

Any tax revenue collected from slots is earmarked for schools around the state. That was a part of the constitutional amendment voters approved in November allowing slot machines at racetracks and jai-alai frontons in Broward and Miami-Dade counties with local approval. Only Broward voters decided to allow the machines.

A competing Senate proposal, meanwhile, earmarked the taxes from slots specifically for school construction and maintenance under an amendment approved Friday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. That proposal set the tax rate between 30 and 35 percent, depending on a facility's slots revenue.

Sen. Daniel Webster, a gambling opponent, tried to force the Broward County parimutuels to choose between having slots or their original businesses of horse racing, dog racing and jai-alai. But the panel rejected his proposal.

Webster, committee chairman, also proposed a higher tax rate but decided to delay a vote on that. The committee voted 7-1 for the legislation, with Webster, R-Winter Garden, voting no.

The parimutuel industry supports the Senate legislation and opposes the House bill.

Allan Solomon, an executive with Pompano Park harness racetrack, told lawmakers the House bill didn't have "any redeeming features."

"The tax rate - 55 percent - is not workable," added Daniel Adkins, with Hollywood Greyhound Track. A tax rate of 30 percent would allow the industry to invest in entertainment complexes that would generate the most taxes, according to Solomon and Adkins.

The House legislation originally provided for a sliding tax scale ranging from 35 percent to 45 percent of revenue, depending on how many machines a facility installs.

Attkisson said 55 percent was reasonable and prudent and predicted it would give the four parimutuels a profit of at least $70-million a year.

Both the House and the Senate committees also approved amendments that would require record-keeping of dog injuries and fatalities in the greyhound industry.

Jack Cory, a lobbyist for greyhound owners, breeders and kennel operators, blasted the idea as an attack on the industry.

But Rep. Holly Benson, R-Pensacola, who sponsored the amendment, said it was just to get accurate data. "This is a puppy lover's amendment," she said.

[Last modified April 23, 2005, 00:53:03]

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