Two bills currently under consideration in the Florida Legislature are stirring up controversy due to their proposed penalties for illegal gambling. As these proposals gain momentum, opposition voices are growing louder, warning of potential unintended consequences. In this article, we delve into the details of the bills, the arguments for and against them, and the uncertain future they face in Florida. 

HB 189, the House version of the proposed legislation, aims to increase penalties for illegal gambling in Florida. It seeks to crack down on illegal gambling establishments and curb the proliferation of illegal gambling machines across the state.

Key Provisions

  • Cease-and-Desist Orders: Under HB 189, illegal gambling establishments would first receive a cease-and-desist order before facing arrests or convictions. This provision aims to protect workers who may be unaware of the illegality of the gambling machines at their place of employment.

  • Increased Penalties: The bill proposes to elevate the crime of conducting illegal gambling from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Additionally, it calls for tougher penalties for repeat offenders.

SB 1046, the Senate counterpart to HB 189, shares similar objectives in increasing penalties for illegal gambling in Florida.

Key Provisions

  • Similar Penalties: SB 1046 mirrors the provisions of HB 189 regarding increased penalties for illegal gambling. However, it does not include the requirement for cease-and-desist orders prior to arrests or prosecutions. 

During a recent House committee hearing, opponents of the proposed bills, including representatives from the American Legion and the Florida Moose Lodge, voiced their concerns. They warned of the potential unintended consequences of the legislation, particularly regarding the criminalization of volunteers working in establishments unknowingly harboring illegal gambling devices. 

Despite clearing committee votes in both the House and the Senate, the bills face mounting opposition and uncertainty about their future. Lawmakers are considering potential changes to address the concerns raised by opponents, but the fate of the legislation ultimately rests in the hands of Florida’s legislators. 

The proposed bills aiming to increase penalties for illegal gambling in Florida have sparked contentious debates and drawn criticism from various quarters. While proponents argue that stricter enforcement is necessary to combat illegal gambling, opponents raise valid concerns about unintended consequences and the potential criminalization of unwitting individuals. As the legislative process unfolds, stakeholders on all sides will continue to advocate for their positions, shaping the final outcome of the proposed legislation.

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