BILL #: CS/CS/HB 189 Gaming Control
SPONSOR(S): Judiciary Committee, Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee, Salzman
1) Regulatory Reform & Economic Development 7 Y, 5 N, As CS Thompson Anstead
2) Appropriations Committee 19 Y, 8 N Helpling Pridgeon
3) Judiciary Committee 16 Y, 4 N, As CS Butcher Kramer
The Florida Gaming Control Commission (Commission), is responsible for exercising all regulatory and executive powers
of the state with respect to gambling, excluding the state lottery. The Commission’s Division of Gaming Enforcement
(Division) is a criminal justice agency tasked with the enforcement of Florida's gambling laws to combat illegal gambling
activities. The Division director and all investigators are certified law enforcement officers, have the power to investigate,
apprehend, and make arrests for any alleged violation of the state’s gambling laws, or any other law of this state, and are
authorized to seize, store, and test contraband in accordance with the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
Recently, illegal gambling operations using unregulated slot machines have been increasing. The machines used are
similar to regulated gambling devices, but can be manipulated by the operators to fraudulently control the outcome and
ratio of winnings. The operations (adult arcades or internet cafes) target vulnerable populations, and are often tied to other
criminal activity, including money laundering, drug trafficking, and violent crime. The Division, along with local law
enforcement, have conducted numerous enforcement actions, including raids, resulting in arrests and closures; however,
the activity persists. According to the Commission, because many of the criminal penalties related to illegal gambling are
relatively minor, they do not deter the activity and adult arcades continue operating illegal slot machines across the state.
CS/CS/HB 189 revises specified criminal penalties and creates new crimes related to illegal gambling, as follows:
 Amends s. 843.08, F.S., to prohibit falsely impersonating personnel or representatives of the Commission.
 Amends s. 849.01, F.S., to increase the penalty for keeping an illegal gambling house from a second degree
misdemeanor to a third degree felony.
 Amends s. 849.15, F.S., to increase the penalty for manufacturing, selling, or possessing illegal slot machines
from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor, and to a felony if committed by a manager, or
by another person with a prior conviction for the offense, after receiving specified notice.
 Creates s. 849.155, F.S., to prohibit trafficking in more than 15 illegal slot machines or any parts thereof as a first
degree felony and to require a court to impose specified fines upon a conviction.
 Creates s. 849.157, F.S., to prohibit making a false or misleading statement to facilitate the sale of illegal slot
machines as a third degree felony, and a second degree felony when a violation involves five or more machines.
 Creates s. 849.47, F.S., to prohibit transporting five or more persons to facilitate illegal gambling as a first degree
misdemeanor, and a third degree felony if a minor, a person 65 or older, or 12 or more persons are transported.
 Creates s. 849.48, F.S., to prohibit certain gambling or gaming advertisements as a first degree misdemeanor.
 Creates s. 849.49, F.S., to prohibit counties, municipalities, or other political subdivisions from regulating gaming,
gambling, lotteries, or other activities described in s. 546.10, F.S., or ch. 849, F.S.
 Amends s. 903.046, F.S., to require a court to consider the amount of currency seized in connection with certain
gambling violations when determining bail conditions.
 Amends s. 921.0022, F.S., to list and revise rankings of specified gaming offenses on the Criminal Punishment
Code’s offense severity ranking chart (OSRC).
The bill may have an indeterminate positive impact on jail and prison beds and may have a positive fiscal impact on the
Commission which may see an increase in revenues resulting from confiscation of contraband and receipt of fines levied
pursuant to the bill. See Fiscal Comments.
The effective date of the bill is July 1, 2024.
This docum ent does not reflect the intent or official position of the bill sponsor or House of Representatives .
DATE: 2/22/2024
Present Situation
Gambling in Florida
Gambling is generally prohibited in Florida, unless specifically authorized. Gambling is defined in
Florida law as playing or engaging in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance,
at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value.1 The standard jury instructions
for criminal cases in Florida provide that in order to prove the crime of gambling, the state must prove
the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 2
 Playing or engaging in a game of chance.
 Risking money or property on the outcome of the game.
 Expecting to gain or lose money or property as a result of the game.
Florida does not allow gambling on games of skill of all types. Gambling on games of skill is highly
regulated, and wagers on such games that are not specifically authorized are considered illegal.
Section 7, Art. X, of the Florida Constitution prohibits lotteries, other than pari-mutuel pools, from being
conducted in Florida.
Slot machines that are not operated by a licensed pari-mutuel facility or in accordance with a tribal
compact or specific law are illegal in Florida.
Chapter 849, F.S., includes prohibitions against slot machines, keeping a gambling house, engaging in
bookmaking, and running a lottery. However, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1986
authorized state-operated lotteries, and a constitutional amendment in 2004 authorized slot machines
in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
The following gaming activities are also authorized by law and regulated by the state:
 Pari-mutuel3 wagering;4
 Gaming on tribal reservations in accordance with the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and
the 2021 Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida;
 Slot machine gaming at certain licensed pari-mutuel locations in Miami-Dade County and
Broward County;5 and
 Cardrooms 6 at certain pari-mutuel facilities.
Under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act,7 gambling proceeds, paraphernalia, and property may be
seized as contraband. For example, a vehicle used for transporting an illegal slot machine is subject to
1 S. 849.08, F.S.
2 The Florida Bar, Criminal Jury Instructions Chapter 22, 22.1 Gambling,
instructions/criminal-jury-instructions-home/criminal-ju ry-instructions/sji-criminal-chapter-22/ (last visited Feb. 21, 2024).
3 “Pari-mutuel” is defined in Florida law as “a system of betting on races or games in which the winners divide the total amount bet,
after deducting management expenses and taxes, in proportion to the sums they have wagered individually and with regard to th e odds
assigned to particular outcomes. See s. 550.002(22), F.S.
4 See ch. 550, F.S., relating to the regulation of pari-mutuel activities.
5 See FLA. CONST ., art. X, s. 23, and ch. 551, F.S.
6 S. 849.086(2)(c), F.S., defines “cardroom” to mean “a facility where authorized card games are played for money or anything of
value and to which the public is invited to participate in such games and charged a fee for participation by the operator of such
7 Ss. 932.701-932.706, F.S., comprise the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
8 S. 849.36, F.S.
DATE: 2/22/2024
Chapter 849, F.S., also authorizes, under specific and limited conditions, the conduct of penny-ante
games,9 bingo,10 charitable drawings,11 game promotions (sweepstakes),12 bowling tournaments,13 and
skill-based amusement games and machines at specified locations. 14
Florida Gaming Control Commission
The Florida Gaming Control Commission (Commission) is a five-member regulatory body that is
responsible for exercising all regulatory and executive powers of the state with respect to gambling,
including pari-mutuel wagering, cardrooms, slot machine facilities, oversight of gaming compacts, and
other forms of gambling authorized by the State Constitution or law, excluding the state lottery.15 The
Commission is also the State Compliance Agency responsible for monitoring compliance with the
provisions of the Gaming Compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State of Florida. 16
The Division of Gaming Enforcement (Division) is a criminal justice agency17 tasked with the
enforcement of Florida's gambling laws to combat illegal gambling activities. 18 While every law
enforcement officer in the state of Florida has the authority to make arrests for violations of Florida’s
gambling laws, the Division is the first law enforcement agency whose primary responsibility is
investigating illegal gambling.19
The Division director and all investigators are certified and designated law enforcement officers, and
have the power to detect, apprehend, and arrest for any alleged violation of the state’s gambling laws,
or any other law of this state.20 Such law enforcement officers may enter upon any premises at which
gaming activities are taking place in the state for the performance of their lawful duties and may take
with them any necessary equipment, and such entry does not constitute a trespass. 21
Such officers have the authority, without a warrant, to search and inspect any premises where the
violation is alleged to have occurred or is occurring. Investigators employed by the Commission are
required to have access to, and the right to inspect, premises licensed by the Commission, to collect
taxes and remit them to the officer entitled to them, and to examine the books and records of all
persons licensed by the Commission.22
The Division and its investigators are specifically authorized to seize, store, and test any contraband23
in accordance with the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. 24
According to the Commission, the Division:25
9 S. 849.085, F.S.
10 S. 849.0931, F.S.
11 S. 849.0935, F.S.
12 S. 849.094, F.S., authorizes game promotions in connection with the sale of consumer products or services.
13 S. 849.141, F.S.
14 S. 546.10, F.S.
15 See ss. 16.71-16.716, F.S.
16 S. 285.710, F.S.
17 S. 16.711(1), F.S.
18 Florida Gaming Control Commission, Annual Report Fiscal Year 2022-2023, pg. 6,
reports/docs/2022-2023%20FGCC%20Annual%20Report.pdf (last visited Feb. 21, 2024).
19 Florida Gaming Control Commission, Gaming Enforcement, (last visited Feb. 21, 2024).
20 S. 16.711(3), F.S.
21 Id.
22 Id.
23 The term “contraband” has the same meaning as the term “contraband article” in s. 932.701(2)(a)2, F.S., which is defined as “ any
equipment, gambling device, apparatus, material of gaming, proceeds, substituted proceeds, real or personal property, Interne t domain
name, gambling paraphernalia, lottery tickets, money, currency, or other means of exchange which was obtained, received, used ,
attempted to be used, or intended to be used in violation of the gambling laws of the state, including any violation of c hapter 24, part II
of chapter 285, chapter 546, chapter 550, chapter 551, or chapter 849.”
24 S. 16.711(4), F.S.
25 Id.
DATE: 2/22/2024
 Participates in direct enforcement activities involving proactive investigations initiated by reports
of illegal gambling, confidential sources, and investigative leads. Upon obtaining sufficient
evidence, agents execute search warrants, resulting in arrests and the seizure of illegal
gambling devices and contraband.
 Serves as a valuable resource for state and local law enforcement partners, providing expert
guidance on the intricacies of Florida's gambling laws and regulations. Agents share their
knowledge and experience, assisting other law enforcement agencies in identifying illegal
gambling activities, gathering evidence, and building strong cases for prosecution. This
collaborative approach ensures that illegal gambling operations are effectively investigated and
Illegal Gambling Machines
According to the American Gaming Association, “there are a growing number of companies that design,
manufacture, sell, or operate machines that mimic regulated gambling devices but operate without
complying with state and federal laws. These games are extremely similar to regulated gambling
devices, using drums or reels with insignia or other symbols that players ‘spin’ to win prizes, including
money. The manufacturers of such machines argue that their games are ‘skill-based’ or operate in
other ‘gray areas’ of the law, thereby exempting them from regulation. However, these machines
function similarly to traditional slot machines, and in fact, many consumers do not know the difference
between regulated gambling devices and these ‘skill-based’ or ‘gray’ machines.”26
These machines have been found to put consumers at risk by targeting the most vulnerable
populations. In addition, they are often tied to criminal activity, including money laundering, drug
trafficking, violent crime, and more.27
Regulated gambling device manufacturers that seek to manufacture, sell, or ship a gambling device in
interstate commerce are required by the federal Johnson Act to register annually with the U.S.
Department of Justice.28 The Johnson Act makes it unlawful to transport a gambling device in interstate
or foreign commerce, unless the device is shipped to a state or tribal jurisdiction that has otherwise
made such shipment or operation of these games lawful.
Gambling devices are defined in the Johnson Act as any slot machine or other machine or device that
is designed primarily for use in gambling, where as a result of application of an element of chance and
any money or property, a person may be entitled to win money or property. 29
Failure to comply with the Johnson Act carries penalties of fines up to $5,000 and up to two years of
imprisonment, along with forfeiture of the unregistered gambling devices. 30
Allied Veterans of the World
In March 2013, a three-year, multi-state, multi-agency investigation into the operations of illegal
gambling at so-called Internet cafes affiliated with Allied Veterans of the World (Allied Veterans)
26 American Gaming Association, Re: Comments Requested on Registration Under the Gambling Devices Act of 1962, 86 Fed. Reg.
53, 682, OMB No. 1123-0010, mment-Gamb ling-Devices-
Act-Nov.-29-202198.pdf (last visited Feb. 21, 2024).
27 See American Gaming Association, SKILLED AT DECEPTION: How Unregulated Gaming Machines Endanger Consumers and
Dilute Investments in Local Economies,
Machines-White-Paper-Final.pdf (last visited Feb. 21, 2024).
28 Gambling Devices Act of 1962, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1171–78 (the “Johnson Act”).
29 15 U.S.C. § 1171(a).
30 15 U.S.C. §§ 1176, 1177
DATE: 2/22/2024
concluded with the arrest of 57 people, and seizure of about 300 bank accounts and approximately
$64.7 million. Charges included racketeering and money laundering.31
The Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, alleged that the establishments
purported to provide customers with access to the Internet. Customers purchased prepaid cards that
they could use for Internet time, and while on the computer could participate in contests that were
similar to playing a slot machine. Winnings were posted to the prepaid cards, which could be turned in
for cash.32
Allied Veterans operated centers out of about 50 strip malls throughout Florida. Prosecutors said the
centers were mini-casinos, and most people used the pretext of buying Internet time to actually use the
computers to gamble. Defense attorneys said the centers offered sweepstakes, not gambling. 33 Under
Florida law, sweepstakes may be conducted in connection with and incidental to the sale of consumer
products or services, and in which the elements of chance and prize are present, only after filing, and
providing certain information regarding winnings, with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services.34 This allows businesses such as McDonald's to offer games of chance without being in
violation of illegal gambling.
In spit