Good News For Casinos and Deadbeat Gamblers, High-Stakes Poker Arrives in South Florida

At the stroke of midnight on Thursday night, South Florida's new gambling laws came into effect, lowering the tax on slots, expanding gaming hours, and opening a gusher of cash for Magic City Casino, Calder Race Course, Gulfstream Park, and several other Broward casinos. High-stakes, no-limit poker will also now be allowed at the state's 23 poker rooms, a change welcomed by gamblers who complained the former $100 buy-in limit made for boring poker and chump change in winnings.

But it's casinos that are salivating over the new law. Two months ago, we reported that the tax break on slots revenue would generate an estimated $138 million.

While it's card games that give casinos its own kind of glamour, they never make as much money as slots. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, our virile, athletic citizens spent $2.7 billion pulling those damn levers,

according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional

Regulation, surely making us the slot jockey capital of the country. Until now, the state took 50 percent of the casino's slots revenue, but after much lobbying that tax will be lowered to 35 percent.

Casino owners say will give them a competitive edge over Indian casinos, which by federal law don't pay taxes. The law also gives the casino owners the right to expand operating hours to 18 on weekdays and 24 on weekends. Here in Miami, the Magic City Casino will expand its poker room hours to 4 a.m. In Broward, Mardi Gras, Pompano Park, and Gulfstream will

go 24 hours on weekends.

As for poker, minimum buy-ins now range from $500 to as big as $10,000 Texas Hold'em at Magic Casino and the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood. Poker room managers expect a 10-15 percent bump in grosses from cash games, reports the Sun Sentinel.

Reporter Nick Sortal was at the Hard Rock Thursday night checking out the commotion, where a gambler told he was just jazzed no-limit poker was going legit. "To be able to come and go and to be

legal, instead of having to play a high-stake backroom game is a

monster," said Howard Appledorf of Pembroke Pines.

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