February 23, 2024 3 min read


Bills in Florida Propose Increased Penalties for Illegal Gambling

While proposals are gaining traction in the state's Senate and House, opponents of the bills warn about the unintended consequences of increasing penalties for illegal gambling

Two bills that seek to increase the penalties for illegal gambling are making their way through the legislative process in Florida. One of the proposals is picking up speed in the state’s House, while the other one is gaining traction in the Senate. Clamping down illegal gambling and fighting the spread of illegal gambling machines are clearly among the priorities of lawmakers in the Sunshine State. But while each proposal is making its way, opposition continues to mount, making the future of each bill uncertain.

The House version of the proposal, HB 189, proposes to increase the penalties applicable for illegal gambling. Under the proposal, illegal gambling establishments would receive a cease-and-desist order prior to arrests or convictions regarding illegal gambling. This part of the bill effectively seeks to protect workers at such establishments who may not be aware that the machines within the venue where they are employed are illegal.

HB 189 also prohibits presenting illegal gambling establishments as legal and proposes increased penalties for people conducting illegal gambling. While currently, such a crime is punishable by a second-degree misdemeanor, the proposal seeks to elevate this to a third-degree felony. Moreover, the bill calls for tougher penalties for subsequent offenses.

Opposition Voices Concerns

On the other hand, the proposal’s counterpart in the Senate, SB 1046, features a similar text when it comes to the increasing penalties for illegal gambling. One major difference between the two bills is that the one in the Senate doesn’t include the text requiring cease-and-desist orders to be sent prior to arrests and prosecution.

The bill in the Senate successfully cleared a Committee Substitute, with 13 votes in favor and 4 in opposition on Thursday. HB 189 also cleared the Committee Substitute with 16 votes in favor and 4 in opposition. Each of the bills is now ahead of a floor vote that would determine their future progress in Florida.

Yet, the traction each of the proposals is gaining comes amid growing concerns from opponents of the bills. As announced by Florida Politics, during the recent House committee hearing, opponents of the proposal in the face of the American Legion spoke about the unintended consequences the bill may bring. Members of the American Legion revealed that its volunteers may be subject to criminal charges and penalties if they work in establishments with illegal gambling devices without knowing. Similarly, the Florida Moose Lodge’s members also joined the opposition against the proposals, deeming the legislation text as unclear.

Amid the mounting opposition, lawmakers may consider changes to the proposed bills. Yet, whether or not this will happen remains in the hands of Florida’s legislators.


William Velichkov is a research-driven writer. His strengths lie in ensuring factual accuracy, vetting government documentation and reaching out to regulators and other officials. He is particularly fond of financial reporting, the sports betting industry, B2B partnerships and esports betting developments. William is a strong asset to the GamblingNews team as he adds a bedrock to our reporting.

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