Seminole Tribe Shouldn't Be Allowed to Lock Up Gambling Activities, Voters Say

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 11, 2014 3:55 AM

Gambling options might be dead in the 2014 Legislature, but by a significant majority, Florida voters want more competition for Las Vegas-style gaming than just the Seminole Tribe's casinos.

Fifty-six percent of voters say they want other establishments to compete for licenses to offer the same gaming options, such as blackjack and poker, as the Seminole Tribe provides, according to a Voter Survey Service poll commissioned by Sunshine State News. Only 40 percent said the Indians' exclusive rights to Las Vegas-style gambling are good enough.

In fact, in all poll categories -- party, age breaks, racial background, gender, area breaks and vote history -- the only group that prefers keeping gambling as it is, with the Seminoles having exclusivity -- is voters in Northwest Florida and the Panhandle, by a margin of 45 percent to 50 percent.

(For a complete breakdown of votes on the gambling poll question, see the cross tabs in the attachment below.)

Gov. Rick Scott is currently in negotiations with the Seminoles on the tribe's contract with the state. The compact, as agreed until mid-2015, gives the Seminoles the exclusive rights to banked card games, including blackjack (but not craps or roulette), at five of its seven facilities. In return, the state gets $1 billion over five years. Scott hasn't given the Legislature a timeline for completing the deal, which also must be followed by federal approval.

"A 16-point difference shows a fairly strong support for gaming opportunity in Florida," said James Lee, president of Voter Survey Service. "To me, the most surprising result is that Republicans want to expand beyond tribal gaming by nearly 2:1. It's usually the Democrats who come out strong for gambling and the Republicans who try to block it."

Some 63 percent of Republicans polled favor more gambling competition; 35 percent do not. Of Democrats, 48 percent favor competition; 45 percent do not. Independent voters opted for more competition, 57 percent to 39 percent.

Gambling poll

"That doesn't surprise me," said Capital City Consulting's Nick Iarossi, chief lobbyist this year for the Las Vegas Sands. "Republicans have no appetite for gambling done wrong. They're opposed to monopolies, which the Tribe is, and attracted to the 'best in class,' which integrated resorts are." Republicans, he said, are sold on the boost they would bring to the job market, tourism and the economy generally, particularly in local communities.

Last week Senate Gaming Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, threw in the towel on a sweeping overhaul that would have permitted two Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida, one each in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. And Wednesday, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, told the News Service of Florida "the lights are out" on any gambling legislation this session. 

Will big-name casino operators give up on Florida after pouring so much money into the effort and coming up empty? "They're very disappointed is all I can tell you," said Iarossi. "They had such high hopes after a $400,000 gaming study. And we thought things were going in the right direction.

"They're going to continue to watch, wait until the end of the year and make a determination about next year then."

Brian Ballard, lobbyist for Genting/Resorts World Miami LLC, isn't worried. "We've seen widespread support for integrated resorts everywhere in Florida we've polled, even in Northwest Florida," he said. "This is all coming, it's going to happen, we're prepared to wait and we don't blame anyone for the delay.

"Casino gambling in Florida is the will of the people," Ballard said. "If the Legislature fails to get it done -- and I don't think they'll fail -- sooner rather than later the issue will turn up as an amendment on the Florida ballot."

The VSS-SSN poll of 800 Florida voters was taken March 31-April 3 and had a margin of error of  +/- 3.46 percent.

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


Comments (5)

Steven Norton
9:16PM APR 11TH 2014
My view of the recent poll doesn't equate to Northern Florida wanting the Seminole Tribe to keep their monopoly, rather they don't want casinos in their backyard. They are going to be against any casino legislation, unless they are removed as a possible casino site, prior to any statewide vote. This resembles the 1974 casino referendum in New Jersey, where 60% opposed gaming, when a subsequent county vote could approve one for their community. Just two years later 57% said yes, when gaming was restricted to Atlantic City. Sounds like the 56% in the recent FL poll, including those in parts of the state that currently oppose the issue. Most of these anti gaming residents would probably be in favor of resort casinos, providing new taxes, jobs, construction and visitors to Florida, if they were assured that the expansion could not come to their part of the State.
Winston B.
1:31PM APR 11TH 2014
I hope the lawmakers and governor are listening to that last comment closely. I couldn't have put it any better. The media should expose this. Maybe our votes will count will they need us to help keep them in office? or maybe not?
12:26PM APR 11TH 2014
6 counties have already voted yes for slots at their local race tracks. 3 of them in North Florida. By the way, gambling is already legal since the early 1900's including North Florida. I think too many people have forgotten how much the pari-mutuels industry has contributed to jobs and revenue over the last century. Why so much attention to the polls? we have 6 counties where official and legal referendums were taken place and the people of the those counties voted unanimously for slots at their local racetracks. Lawmakers are turning their backs on this and not recognizing all our votes. Where is the media on this one? We can't just ignore this. The governor, whoever it is at the time, should negotiate compromises on this. The North Florida tracks, Naples and Melbourne are very little competition to the Hard Rock casinos. It would be very little sacrifice from the Seminoles, They could even pay less depending on how much those tracks brought in from slots. A sliding scale would work well. Palm Beach Kennel Club has tried to block out the other 5 tracks that voted yes for slots in their respective counties. The lawmakers have had 5 years to figure this out. If we want jobs and keep money from leaving our state, authorize casino games/slots at these racetracks - North Florida and other racetracks to stimulate their local economies instead of giving a monopoly to the Seminoles. If we continue the same trend with the compact, it's the same concept as outsourcing jobs to other countries and lessening the opportunities in our country and local economies.
Tom Reynolds
11:59AM APR 11TH 2014
The will of the people in South Florida , maybe . Not Central and North Florida . In fact the real talk here in the North Florida is becoming another state if gambling becomes legal . Best thing that could ever happen is dividing this state now . South Florida is going to bring this state down like LA did to California . The part most people who are for this sinful conduct don't understand is what comes with this kind of lifestyle .
pat mack
10:41AM APR 11TH 2014
These Seminole casinos currently have these phony ROULETTE and CRAPS machines which they control how much is won and lost....mostly lost by the patrons. Real craps and roulette tables will at least give the patron BETTORS a better chance or winning, which will still be in favor of the casino, BUS SO MUCH FAIRER TO THE GAMBLER ans so much more enjoyable. ALLOW AND BRING IN THE LIVE CRAP AND ROULETTER TABLES.

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