Florida Gaming Commission Keeps Seized Assets Under New Law

Written By Phil West on April 12, 2024
A locked up $100 bill for a story about how Florida gaming regulators can now keep seized funds.

A new Florida law allows the Florida Gaming Control Commission to keep funds and property it seizes.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 5203 into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month. Under the law, the FGCC can seize “certain property” and place it into the FGCC’s Pari-Mutuel Wagering Trust Fund.

Previously, pari-mutuel license fees were the primary source of the trust’s funding. The commission pays for its operating costs with the money in the trust.

The Florida House of Representatives site says the bill had unanimous support in both the House and Senate.

Gaming Commission began targeting illegal gambling operations in 2022

Shortly after Gov. DeSantis legalized Florida sports betting through the 2021 gaming compact, the state created the FGCC.  The state tasked the five-person agency with regulating the state’s gambling industry.

However, the department only has authority over the pari-mutuel facilities. The commission can’t regulate casinos owned by the Seminole Tribe.

In 2022, the FGCC announced that it would aggressively pursue and prosecute illegal gambling operations in Florida. The new law allows the agency to keep the slots-like machines agents seize in raids. That includes proceeds from the sale of the machines and “all money and other things of value” seized as part of an investigation.

In the past, seized assets went to counties and cities where raids occurred, or to the Florida General Fund if the state conducted the investigation.

More than 175 machines were seized this week in Hamilton County

These are the specific changes to the trust implemented by HB 5203:

  • Declared no property rights exist in confiscated gaming machines and their contents, mandating forfeiture to the Florida Gaming Control Commission’s Pari-Mutuel Wagering Trust Fund if seized by the commission.
  • Stipulated that proceeds from the sale or other dispositions of property seized by the commission will be deposited into the Pari-Mutuel Wagering Trust Fund.
  • Provided an exemption for proceeds accrued under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, directing them to either the Pari-Mutuel Wagering Trust Fund or the Florida Gaming Control Commission’s Federal Law Enforcement Trust Fund to be used for commission operations.

Earlier this week, authorities seized 179 machines used in a suspected illegal gambling operation in a Hamilton County raid.

Photo by PlayFL
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