The Gambling Bill: What’s in it (and what’s not)?
- Another empty promise. Despite the promises of casino promoters, the Fresen-Bogdanoff bill does not confine expanded gambling to Dade and Broward counties.
- Just three casinos? Don’t bet on it. A one-word amendment to the bill—even during any future legislative session—could cause the number of authorized casinos to balloon from three to five, to fifty, or more. How long before Tallahassee politicians decide that “just a few more” casinos couldn’t hurt?
- No referendum required—or desired. The bill does not require a referendum in Dade or Broward—relying instead on the slots referenda as proof of public approval. That is like saying if a neighborhood approves of a 7-11 at the corner then it’s safe to assume they will support putting the Mall of the Americas at the end of their street, too.
- Selling out on the cheap. The bill would hand casinos a 10 percent tax rate and a one-time license fee of up to $50 million, a figure that insiders say is embarrassingly low. It’s one thing to sell out Florida’s image and the world’s most enviable tourism economy. It’s quite another to sell it so cheaply.
- It won’t cover costs. Each casino is to set aside a paltry $250,000 per year to treat the inevitable social costs associated with compulsive gambling. It’s a tiny figure that won’t even begin to address the long-term, systemic social costs of expanded casino gambling.
- Operations? Expect the new casinos to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Amazingly, the bill would also preempt local laws as it relates to the sale of alcohol.
- Sets up an unprecedented soft money machine. Members of the gaming commission are chosen by a process whereby the Senate President and the House Speaker nominate a pool of candidates from which the Governor chooses. If this is not a recipe for establishing that gambling interests become the primary funding mechanism for legislative leadership committees and gubernatorial races, than nothing is. Anybody concerned about honesty and integrity in government should be gravely concerned about this process. The gambling interests will have a soft money machine in place that makes anything we’ve seen heretofore look like a teenager’s allowance.
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