The history of brick and mortar casinos in Florida goes back to the years of the Great Depression. Today, America’s Sunshine State has nearly 150 casinos, spanning from the panhandle to the southernmost tip of the mainland, and everywhere in between. What was once known solely for its beautiful beaches and tourist attractions, Florida is quickly evolving into a mecca of gambling never before seen this far south of the Mason-Dixon line.
The following few sections will delve much deeper into the inner-workings of Florida’s many casinos.
Every casino in Florida, along with its associated Floridian city, is listed as follows:
Calder Casino & Race Course-Miami Gardens
Casino Miami Jai-Alai-Miami
Creek Entertainment Gretna-Gretna
Dania Jai-Alai-Dania Beach
Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room-Daytona Beach
Derby Lane-St. Petersburg
Ebro greyhound Track-Ebro
Flagler Dog Track and Magic City Casino-Miami
Fort Pierce Jai-Alai & Poker-Fort Pierce
Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino-Hallandale Beach
Hamilton Jai-Alai and Poker-Jasper
Hialeah Park Race Track-Hialeah
Jacksonville Kennel Club-Orange Park
Jefferson County Kennel Club-Monticello
Mardi Gras Casino-Hallandale Beach
Melbourne Greyhound Park-Melbourne
Miccosukee Resort and Gaming Center-Miami
Naples/Fort Meyers Greyhound Track-Bonita Springs
Ocala Poker & Jai-Alai-Ocala
Orange Park Kennel Club-Orange Park
Palm Beach Kennel Club-West Palm Beach
Pensacola Greyhound Track-Pensacola
Pompano Park-Pompano Beach
Sarasota Kennel Club-Sarasota
Seminole Casino Big Cyprus-Clewiston
Seminole Casino Immokalee-Immokalee
Seminole Coconut Creek Casino-Coconut Creek
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood-Hollywood
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa-Tampa
Tampa Bay Downs-Tampa
Tampa Greyhound Track-Tampa
Victory Casino Cruises-Cape Canaveral
The history of Florida casinos can be linked directly to the grip the Great Depression had on the United States during the early 1930s. In 1932, the state of Florida legalized pari-mutuel betting in a large part of the state as a way of driving up revenue during a time when revenues were mostly drying up. This move was quickly followed in 1935 by the legalization of slot machines, a law that would eventually be repealed in 1973.
1979 marked the first year in which Indian bingo halls were legalized, a move that would see many Floridian Indian tribes turn to gambling as a way of bringing in revenue. Even today, most casinos in Florida are owned and operated by
a variety of different Native American tribes.
In the 1980s, many Floridians circumvented the lack of traditional brick and mortar casinos by hitching a cruise on the many gambling vessels dotting the state’s ports. These cruises served the sole purpose of taking passengers out to sea and allowing them to freely gamble before returning to port a few hours or days later. Cruises like this still exist today and are a fun, interesting way to gamble.
Despite the state of Florida having a large gambling presence by the 1970s, state voters shot down measures to legalize casino gambling in 1978, 1986, and again in 1994. Ten years after the 1994 gambling legalization bill was shot down, Florida voters finally said yes to the legalization of casinos. Today, Florida is ranked the state with the 4th largest casino offering in the United States. Casinos can be found in every region of the state and are being built with increasing frequency.
Casinos in Florida tend to fit neatly into 2 distinct categories, racinos and Native American casinos. Racinos dominate Florida’s casino offering, making up more than 3/4s of the total casinos in the state.
Racinos are, as you might have guessed, dog or horse tracks that are accompanied by gambling facilities such as slots, blackjack, and/or poker. Because every racino is different, some may only offer slot play while others will give off the look and feel of the casinos you would find in larger gambling destinations such as Atlantic City or Las Vegas.
The other predominant type of casino found in Florida are those owned and operated by Native American tribes. Casinos like Seminole Casino Hollywood are owned by a particular Native American tribe and are situated on their reservation. Because Indian reservations are treated as their own sovereign regions, the law of Florida which prevented casinos did not stop the Native Americans from constructing their own. A lot of the Native American casinos in existence in Florida today are similar to the resort casinos you will find lining the Las Vegas strip. Equipped with a casino, hotel, spa, restaurants, shops, and other attractions, Native American casinos tend to blow the socks off of the racinos that make up a majority of Floridian gambling destinations.
The last type of Floridian casino is the casino cruise. On boats that are really nothing more than floating casinos, gamblers will be taken out to sea where the law of the land has no say in whether they gamble or not. For cruises on Florida’s west coast, gamblers will be taken 9 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico while cruises on Florida’s east coast need to only travel 3 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. These cruise casinos have all the table games and slots you would expect to find at any casino, floating or otherwise.
Before going to Florida and gambling, there are a few rules worth mentioning. For one, the gambling age changes depending on what type of gambling you would like to do. If you are 18, playing poker is acceptable, but putting coins into a slot machine and pulling the reel is not. Games like blackjack and roulette also require you to be 21 before you can place a wager.
As is the case for almost all of the United States, Florida’s drinking age is 21.
With regards to sports betting, it is not allowed in Florida casinos, though it is available, in abundance, on the many casino cruises offered all year long.