Florida Legislature Appoints Controversial Company to Head Gambling Expansion Study

Casino Watch Focus reported that the Florida legislature cut $400,000 from programs designed to treat those who suffer from compulsive gambling.  Then they approved $400,000 to commission a gambling study.  It was clear at the time that the intent of the study was to promote gambling and not actually evaluate the data that would expressly demonstrate the harm to Florida families. Gov. Rick Scott didn’t veto the bill despite urging to do so, but the the Senate Gaming Committee’s decision to make the study a two year period at least delayed immediate gambling expansion efforts by the mega resort casino companies.  Now, with the appointment of the company to conduct the study, it’s clear that the advantage of such a move for Florida’s families has past.  The Miami Herald Explains:

Despite hours of testimony hearing about the state’s gambling industry, and two years debating whether to open Florida to resort casinos, the Florida Legislature this year decided to spend $388,000 in taxpayer money to hire an outside consultant to study the state’s gambling market.

Senate Gaming Chairman Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican who has never served on a gaming committee, said the study was necessary to help lawmakers next year in their efforts to conduct comprehensive rewrite of the state’s gambling laws. Senate leaders persuaded the House to go along and the contract was signed last week with Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey-based gambling consulting company, and announced on Tuesday.

Sowinski noted that Spectrum’s business portfolio includes broad services to the casino industry and Spectrum is affilated with Spectrum Gaming Capital, which helps finance casinos. “So every casino built is a potential Spectrum client down the road,” he said. “The people of Florida deserve an honest assessment by objective analysts, not a taxpayer funded propaganda tool for casino interests,” Sowinski said. “The Legislature needs to either change course, or know that $400,000 of taxpayer money will be wasted on a report that no objective observer will believe.”

Leaders of various anti-gambling organizations, including Florida Casino Watch, immediately recognized the danger to Florida families if such a company were allowed to keep the contract.  The Herald provides information from two such groups:

“Spectrum is part of the roll-out team for a casino expansion,” said Les Bernal, Executive Director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a national opposition group to government-sponsored gambling based in Washington, DC.

“Their phony jobs and revenue numbers will be used to rationalize a bigger government-gambling program for Florida. And then later, like what happened recently in Massachusetts, they’ll get a consulting contract about how to set up Florida’s casino regulatory program after the expansion is passed.”

John Sowinski, president of No Casinos, a gambling opponent supported by Disney and Universal, and Mark Andrews of Florida Casino Watch, question how independent Spectrum’s report will be.

“We need help in understanding what the effect on families and life style will be if we embrace mega casino expansion,” wrote Andrews in a statement. “Doesn’t a ‘gaming company’ specialize in casino success? How can they address the problems of addiction, bankruptcy, expanded crime and suicide?”

“…Can we expect to see a candid study of gambling’s devastation to families by an academic group supported heavily by casino money?”

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

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