Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ever growing debate of gambling expansion in Florida and the controversial company selected to produce a gambling study for the Florida Legislature. The company, Spectrum Gaming Group, was paid around $400, 000 and has been criticized as being made up of too many gambling industry insiders. The first of a two-part report has just been released. As the Miami Herald points out, it is conceding what most already realize, that expanded gambling with hurt state tourism:
If Florida decides to expand casino gambling, the move could harm the state and Orlando’s tourist brand, says a new gaming report commissioned by the Florida Legislature.
The report, released late Monday, comes at a time when lawmakers plan to review and rewrite the state’s gambling laws, and decide whether gambling should be expanded statewide.
“The brand equity of Orlando has benefits for the entire state” and “expanded gambling may fundamentally change the state of Florida as a place to live and visit,” write Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey-based gambling consulting firm. “Rather than benefitting the state, expanded gambling (especially casinos) could make Florida a less-attractive tourist destination.”
Some are surprised that the report is pointing out any negative repercussions to expanded gambling, but those in leadership are not willing to make any decisions until the second part of the report is released. The assumption is that with the focus being more on the financial benefits of gambling in the second report, the company’s bias will be far more visible. The Sunshine News explains:
“The report does not, and will not make policy recommendations. It will be the Gaming Committee’s responsibility to review gambling statutes, to address the ambiguities, inconsistencies, and exceptions in current law, and to craft an action plan. Over the next few months, we will evaluate Part 1A of the study. Public hearings will be scheduled for the fall of 2013, as directed by the President and Speaker, so legislators have the opportunity to listen to all interested parties.”
Ryan Duffy, spokesman for House Speaker Will Weatherford, had said earlier Monday that the second part was due out in October and would be far more detailed, “more holistic,” addressing gaming’s impact on cities and counties, its costs to social services, revenue projections — virtually everything.
“Absolutely no decisions are going to be made until all parts of the study are complete and in,” Duffy said.
Meanwhile, the Orlando-based group that opposes gambling, No Casinos in Florida, continues to pound Spectrum. In a letter No Casinos sent to Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, it claims consultants are “too cozy with casinos” and any report would be a “propaganda tool for the casino gambling industry.”
Its still possible that even with the information from the second report in hand, Florida Legislators might choose to hold off on any expansion given the political landscape and reelection. Bay News 9 explains:
No matter the facts and no matter the risk and reward, the chances of lawmakers doing anything about gambling anytime soon don’t look good.
It’s a safe bet nothing will happen until at least November 2014.
Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief Steve Bousquet said Tallahassee’s Republican leaders are facing pressure from social conservatives and deep-pocketed companies like Disney not to expand gaming.
“We’re heading into an election year legislative session, when they play it safe. The legislature plays it safe in an election year, next year there are a lot of senators, Republican senators, up for re-election. They won’t be doing anything dramatic with gambling next year,” said Bousquet.
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