Politics

Both Sides in the Casino Battle Ramp Up Operations

By: Kevin Derby and Nancy Smith | Posted: January 16, 2014 3:55 AM
Gambling

Both advocates and opponents of increased casino activity in Florida unleashed new efforts on Wednesday as the business community’s 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 America’s 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 City’s 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.


Comments (2)

Steven Norton
3:27PM JAN 16TH 2014
I have not been able to watch No Casinos new film, but I have been told that it uses Atlantic City to make it's point, that casino gaming is a disaster on several fronts. I'm sure these include increases in crime and harm to existing restaurants and retail. What they probably don't say, however, is that the FBI Crime Statistics show several Florida Resorts with higher crime rates than Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Unfortunately the FBI compares both Violent and Property Crime only to an area's permanent population, which overstates the crime in communities with lots of tourism. Using the FBI stats, I would have to conclude that family entertainment (Disney World, Epcot, Universal Studios, Sea World and Leggo Land) in Orlando is more dangerous than casino gaming in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Does that translate to Florida being safer with casino gaming than family friendly Orlando? Unfortunately, I can't come to that conclusion, because it would be morally wrong. Crime increases have to do with the people at risk, but the FBI compares crimes only to to an area's permanent population.
In Atlantic City's case, the visitor population increased from 4 million to 35 million annually, after casinos were introduced, and the employment from a few thousand seasonal employees to 52,000 casino employees and an estimated 20,000 added in support industry positions. But the crimes are compared only to Atlantic City's permanent population of less that 50,000. So you get a very misleading statistic, as you do in Florida resorts, like Miami Beach, Tampa-St Petersburg, Daytona Beach and yes Orlando.
As for restaurant closings, I doubt that the new film "Pushing Luck" talks about the many new restaurants and retail opened in Atlantic County, or the reason City restaurants lost business. It was a decision to reduce expected traffic into AC, and it required all casino employees to park at intercept lots on the mainland and be bussed to their casino workplace. The new casino employees were the most likely City restaurant customer, because most new casino visitors were day trippers, coming by line run busses themselves directly to their favorite casino (at on time reaching 14 million annually) or driving in for the day. Once in the casino, these visitors were likely to stay at their preferred casino, or step out onto the Boardwalk; rather than visit commercial establishments on Atlantic, Pacific, Baltic or Atlantic Avenues.
Arnie G.
9:35AM JAN 16TH 2014
Why does the" NoCasinos" group point to Atlantic city in the 1970's.... Why not CT,Detroit,Penn, NY, R.I., even your own state of Florida?...How has Gaming worked out for them? instead of bringing back A.C. from the 1970's an area that was already crime ridden before the casinos came in. Why not show what happened in all these other places.

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