UPDATE: Newly Established Florida Senate Gaming Committee to Conduct 2 Year Gambling Study Delaying Slot Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing attempts to legalize gambling in Florida including recent reports regarding slot machine expansion that was recently taken to a vote of the people. With so much ongoing debate, The Florida Current is reporting that the Senate has established a new gambling committee:

A bill to bring large casinos to South Florida drew the glitzy and glamorous headlines this year, but ultimately went bust under the weight of heavy lobbying by entrenched and competing interests.

Now, after a legislative session punctuated by a heated fight between and among the Central Florida hospitality industry led by Walt Disney World, large-scale casino conglomerates, pari-mutuels, Seminole Indian casinos, social conservatives opposed to new gaming and Internet sweepstakes café operators, Florida’s gambling fight is likely to simmer in 2013.

That’s because new Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, created a new Senate Gaming Committee that will take a comprehensive look at all of Florida’s gaming laws before moving forward with major legislation such as the casino bill.

This newly established committee is now considering a gambling study be commissioned before any serious legislation is moved forward:

The head of a new Senate gaming committee said Friday his panel wants to study the future of Florida gambling for up to two years before holding public hearings in cities such as Miami, Orlando and Tampa.

The extensive review could delay when and if the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track will receive slot machines. Lee County residents approved a referendum in November to add slot machines at the Bonita Springs dog track.

The Legislature, however, must pass a bill allowing slots in Lee before machines can be installed. Attorney General Pam Bondi ruled in January local slots referendums such as Lee’s were illegitimate and gambling in the state can only expand through a change in state law.

Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican who also serves as president pro tem, spoke at an Estero community leaders meeting Friday. The panel wants to do a thorough economic analysis on gaming before taking a position.

It appears the real motivation is to make sure slot expansion doesn’t cannibalize any potential mega resort casinos or other gambling opportunities. The online article continues:

“The first thing I need to understand is the complete economic impact of all gambling in the state of Florida,” Richter said. “There are a number of interests here. There are the destination casinos that want to come to Florida, there is the jai alai, there is the pari-mutuel facilities that want slot machines, Internet cafes, the Seminole Indians and even McDonald’s and Coca Cola.”

Richter, who hasn’t taken a position on slot machines, said he’s in listening mode.

“There are some major challenges,” Richter said about gaming in the state. “I think the financial impact will have some impact but that’s not all nine yards. It’s like the money that goes to education in the (Florida) lottery. Does all the money get there?”

After studying the various gaming interests, Richter said he’d like to have two to four hearings around the state in the same way state senators had a listening tour before redistricting.

As these committees consider what legislation to advance, its important that they consider all perspectives, not just the economic potential or decline of a particular sector. Casino Watch Focus has reported on the highly addictive nature of slot machines. Natasha Shull, a cultural anthropologist and associate professor in MIT’s Program on Science, Technology and Society, has spent the last 15 years researching and studding the slot machines. Her book, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegasgives startling accounts of how these machines are designed to addict people in terrible ways. She explains in page 35 of her book:

It was not uncommon, in my interviews with casino slot floor managers, to hear of machine gamblers so absorbed in play that they were oblivious to the rising flood waters at their feet or smoke and fire alarms that blared at deafening levels. As the casino surveillance tapes showed, the actively can keep a group of gamblers unaware of their immediate surrounding, each other, and even a dying man at their feet. Mollie witnessed this extreme of unawareness one night as she searched the aisles of a casino for a machine to play and came upon a small crowd gathered around a man lying on the floor between a row of machines. “He’d had a heart attack and the paramedics were getting him with those shocker things,” she recalled. “Everyone walking by was looking at him, but I watching the woman on the dollar slot machine. She was staring right at the screen and never missed a beat. She played right through it all, she never stopped.”

This type of addiction and harm to a community cannot be ascertained through such economic studies. Please read Natasha’s book and please urge your legislators to vote against gambling expansion, especially expansion that involves these machines that are designed for extreme addiction.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

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