Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, Erik Fresen: It’s too late to slam the door on gambling
Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, represents District 25 in the Florida Senate. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, represents District 111 in the Florida House of Representatives. Contact him at email@example.com.
The “destination resort” legislation we filed in October has triggered a spirited statewide debate. We have observed with intrigue and at times disappointment as tired rhetoric and clever sound bytes attempt to bury the facts relevant to this topic. So here we seek to reiterate the facts and share our vision for Florida’s future.
First, we must recognize and admit that under the nose of an “anti-gaming” legislature, Florida has become the fourth-largest gaming state in the nation over the last 10 years. It has grown in large part through statutory loopholes and clever lawyering.
There seems to be no end in sight to the expansion and lack of strategic direction to address it.
Second, this bill (SB 710, HB 487) is not bringing anything new to this state. Las Vegas-style casinos are already present in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Hillsborough counties. The concept of the destination resort simply reforms what we have by moving from the third-tier gaming that caters exclusively to local residents to gaming that attracts non-Floridian and international tourists.
Make no mistake; we would like nothing more than to eliminate all gambling in our state. But our current landscape was set in motion with the lottery, long before either of us was elected.
Why not forget destination resorts and simply shut down the Internet cafes and let the pari-mutuel industry die a slow death? If it were that easy it would have been done years ago. To attempt that type of reduction is not a political reality but simply the making of a political statement. The next best thing is to harness and re-direct the type of gaming that does and will exist.
This bill will be the first proposal that creates a strategic vision for gaming in Florida. We have done it in education, health care, criminal justice, and economic development. The time has come to address gambling.
Without legislative approval or direction, the last few years have witnessed a proliferation of gambling locations. We’ve seen “Internet cafes,” which are basically unregulated and untaxed slot barns. A recent court ruling seems to allow slot machines in any county, and the Seminole Indian casinos, which were sold a monopoly on the cheap by the state, continue expanding.