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Politics

Both Sides in the Casino Battle Ramp Up Operations

January 14, 2014 - 6:00pm

Both advocates and opponents of increased casino activity in Florida unleashed new efforts on Wednesday as the business communitys leadership divides on the issue.

Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) will put its integrated-resort advocacy behind a new campaign, "Best for Florida," launched Wednesday.

The campaign is part of a new multimedia effort to provide Floridians with facts about gaming in the Sunshine State, according to the AIF press statement, and "the tremendous benefits" establishing an integrated resort in the state would bring.

Florida has an historic opportunity to create jobs and locate a huge magnet for convention and trade shows in our state. This is the time for lawmakers to seize this opportunity for our state, said Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida. The integrated resort model is proven to spur economic activity and create jobs by increasing tourism and convention and exhibition business visitors. With convention cancellations due to lack of adequate venues, this is exactly the kind of resource needed in South Florida.

Through legislative action, Florida lawmakers have the opportunity to implement comprehensive guidelines regarding proper regulation and introduce the integrated resort model to the South Florida area, says AIF. "These high-end, luxury properties offer lavish amenities and serve as a magnet attracting people from all over the world to visit Florida. With this proposed expansion comes the creation of more jobs, a greater boost to the economy and increased promotion of trade shows and conventions."

To help Floridians learn valuable information about integrated resorts and the gaming issue facing state lawmakers in 2014, the campaign created a flashy new website which provides background information on the integrated resort model. While visiting the site, readers can learn how lawmakers can modernize gaming regulations in the state while providing an opportunity for the establishment in Florida of the integrated resort model with world-class gaming.

The website also notes how gaming has grown in Florida through the exploitation of legal loopholes, often without the approval of the Legislature. Due, in part, to gaming creep, Florida is now one of Americas largest gaming states, with numerous options available to consumers, including cruises to nowhere, dog racing, horse racing, lottery, card rooms, slot machines and Las Vegas-style gaming at Indian casinos.

But opponents of expanded gaming ramped up their operations as well on Wednesday. In Tallahassee, NoCasinos unveiled Pushing Luck, a documentary on Atlantic Citys decision to allow casino gambling in the 1970s and the negative impacts it had on the area. The documentary features prominent leaders from politics and business including state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The documentary praises Gov. Reubin Askew, the first governor to serve two consecutive terms in Tallahassee, for opposing bringing casino gambling to Florida during the 1970s.

NoCasinos is supported by parts of the business community including the Florida Chamber, the Florida Attractions Association, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Florida Retail Federation.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com. Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.

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