Florida Gambling History
In 1932 the state of Florida legalized pari-mutuel betting in more counties to bring more revenue to the State during the Great Depression. This step forward for legalized gambling paved the way to more tourism which then helped the local economy recover.
This was followed by the legalization of Jai-Alai in 1935. Jai-Alai was first introduced in 1926 at the Miami Fronton although it was a legal sport; it was not a legal betting event.
Later during 1935 slot machines were legalized in Florida, later in 1973 though this law was repealed, and the slot machines had to be removed. 1979 brought legalized Indian bingo halls thus allowing the Indian tribes to support themselves with the gambling profits.
In 1984 "cruises to nowhere" was introduced to circumvent the law by taking patrons out to the high seas to gamble on a casino ship. The only purpose in the ship was to gamble, hence the name, cruise to nowhere.
1986 the Florida Lottery was unveiled; the vote was passed by a two to one margin. Voters gave approval since all of the proceeds are supposed to go to education in Florida.
Casinos were shot down by Florida voters in 1978, 1986, and 1994 but finally in 2004, Florida voters voted in favor of legalized casino gambling.
Today there are 137 casinos in Florida and Florida ranks 4 out of 46 in number of casinos in all the states in US that have gaming facilities if you count the cruise ships with casinos that leave from here.
Hialeah Park Race Track opened in 1925 and received more press coverage in the Miami media than any other sporting event in the history of Miami.
Tourism was encouraged during the lean years around the Great Depression, starting around 1928 by gambling, legal or illegal. In fact, Al Capone moved to Miami in 1928 and gambling took on a bit more sinister character.
In 1928 Cap's Place, originally called Club Unique, was established as a supper club and gambling casino. Gambling was illegal in Florida at the time but this did not stop Cap's Place. Slot machines lined the hallway between the dining room and the kitchen and a wheel of fortune hung over the bar. Cap's had it all, including dice and blackjack games. In the 1930's the gambling interests, who controlled the action, advised Cap to spruce up the place so he added red carpeting and private gambling rooms.
In January of 1942 the most famous visitors arrived, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D Roosevelt. They held a series of secret war conferences right in Cap's Place. It is not known if they did any gambling while there.
In 1979 the Seminole Tribe opened a high stakes bingo parlor that did not conform to state law and spurred the first major litigation. The Indian Tribes won on appeal in the US Court of Appeals.
On December 5,1933, Sloppy Joe's opened In Key West, Florida. Joe Russell was the proprietor. It was originally called the "Blind Pig" and renamed the "Silver Slipper" when a dance floor was added but the real attraction was the food and the gambling. One of the most famous patrons was Ernest Hemmingway, who encouraged the name change to "Sloppy Joe's" and the name stuck as did the gambling.
In 1876 the city of Keno was denied the request for a post office because of its name which means gambling (which was one of the favorite pastimes of the town). The city had to change its name to Leno to prove it was a decent town.
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