Category Archives: Political Contributions

Florida Gambling Mood Shifts as Casino Mogul Sheldon Adelson Sends Droves of Lobbyists: “Conservatives” Appear to be Buying In

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida, typically with new full-sized, Vegas-sytle gambling casinos.  For the past few years, these efforts have been unsuccessful, despite many different avenues for making expansion a reality. As a new legislative session is soon to quickly move through its short cycle, the mood may be shifting.  The talks even a week ago had signaled that gambling expansion seemed a dead issue.  Then, billionaire casino operator Sheldon Adelson set his sights more firmly on Florida and he sent over a 100 lobbyist to convince lawmakers to expand.  Bloomberg online reports:

To bring Las Vegas-style gambling to Florida, casino operators like Sheldon Adelson are sending more than 100 lobbyists to the state Capitol to battle their biggest adversary: Mickey Mouse.

The clash pits casino operators Genting Bhd. (GENT) and Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) , controlled by billionaire Adelson, against Walt Disney Co. (DIS), which runs theme parks and resorts near Orlando, and may face new competition for convention business. Companies on both sides of the dispute are sending lobbyists and campaign checks to Florida lawmakers, who say they’ll consider expanding gambling this year.

Disney argues gambling would hurt the state.  “The massive expansion of gambling that would come from legalizing mega-casinos would be a bad bet for Florida’s taxpayers, tourism brand and existing businesses,” said Andrea Finger, a Disney spokeswoman, in a statement.

In a legislature controlled by Republicans, many have sought to voice moral opposition to gambling while also keeping the door open to expansion proposals.

The goal is to protect Florida’s “family-friendly” image, said Hart. Disney, which is a top contributor to the Chamber’s political committee and has a seat on the board, has made similar arguments to lawmakers.

So are these new lobbyist efforts actually working?  It would appear so.  The mood has clearly shifted to expanding gambling, Conservative leadership has gone from a position of no expansion, to expansion with various conditions.  The Tampa Bay Times explains:

After years of resistance, the conservative leadership of the Florida House has signaled its willingness to pass legislation that would expand gambling in Florida to include new Las Vegas-style casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward in exchange for a constitutional amendment that requires voters to approve any future games.

“I would be willing to talk about gaming in the State of Florida, even expansion, in return for contraction in some areas and passing a constitutional amendment,” House Speaker Will Weatherford said in an exclusive interview with the Times/Herald on Tuesday.

Because the speaker dictates the agenda and controls which bills get a priority, Weatherford’s statement Tuesday breathes new life into an issue that appeared to be stalled for another year.

It also guarantees that legislators have more time to solicit campaign contributions to their political committees from multinational casino giants as well as the Florida horse tracks, dog tracks and jai alai frontons that want their own casinos.

“The fact this is an issue being discussed by the Legislature at all is a testament to the political influence of the gambling industry,” said John Sowinski, president of the Orlando-based No Casinos.

He said the discussion ignores the findings of Spectrum Gaming Group, which the Legislature paid $400,000 to analyze new gambling’s impact on the Florida economy. It found that gambling would continue to expand and that the state’s economy is so big that casinos would have little state impact.

“Never has so much intellectual energy been spent on an issue for which there is so little public appetite,” Sowinski said.

Its hard to imagine that lawmakers that call themselves conservative and dedicated to serving their constituents can even consider expanding   gambling when they know full well what the consequences will be. They are willing to encourage their friends and neighbors to become losers so the casinos and State can be winners.  This is a terrible trade off and its even more disheartening to see such a swift change in position simply because more money is being thrown at the situation by lobbyists and political campaign contributions. 

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

Disney Firm Against Gambling Despite Efforts to “Out” Them as Gambling Hypocrites

Casino Watch Focus has reported many times on Disney’s support of family values and their opposition to gambling.  As major battles over gambling expansion unfold, Disney has actively stood firm against expansion in Florida and offered a wide range of support to those who oppose.  In an effort to attempt to smear Disney’s image and appear to be hypocritical in their opposition, the New York Times attempted to out Disney claiming they have ties to gambling. The Sunshine State News explains:

Hard to believe for-families Disney could be profiting from casinos, but the New York Times posted a story late Saturday that lays out the “family entertainment” giant’s connection to gambling.

It seems some of the profits from licensing the Amazing Spider-Man and Iron Man slot games you see in casinos across the world come back to Florida’s biggest anti-gambling entity.

In “Gambling Debate Entangles Disney in Florida,” Times writers Lizette Alvarez and Michael Snyder explain that Disney’s piece of the action began in 2009, when it purchased Marvel, its characters and operations. Turns out Marvel has copious licensing arrangements with gambling products, from slot machines to online games to lottery tickets.

At present, Disney-owned Marvel has licensing deals with slot-game makers around the world, with character machines in casinos in Macau, Brisbane, Brussels, Capetown — even Florida.

Disney’s position has remained firm against gambling and they clearly explained that it was their purchase of Marvel that created the connection. They have clearly stated that they have no intention to renew any licensing deals and that once the existing contracts expire, no further link will exist.  The Sunshine State continues:

Disney claims its gambling association was unwanted and just came with the deal when it bought Marvel Comics for $4.4 billion on Aug. 31, 2009.

Said the Times, “Asked whether Disney’s ties to the gaming industry, through Marvel, undercut its position on casino gambling, a Marvel spokeswoman said last week that the company planned to shed its connection to slot machines when the various licensing agreements expire. On Saturday, the spokeswoman added that Marvel had signed its last slot machine deal.” It will take a few years for all contracts to expire, the spokeswoman said.

When Sunshine State News asked No Casinos spokesman Michael Murphy in September to explain how the anti-gambling group justifies Disney’s licensing presence in hundreds of casinos, he said, “From a No Casinos standpoint, it’s been widely reported that the Marvel character images were purchased by Disney long after they were licensed by the previous owners to the purveyors of those games.”

Such tactics should probably be expected when a much beloved and influential group like Disney stands up for families and stands in the way of gambling expiation.  The issue of destination casinos in Florida is far from over, but Disney’s opposition to gambling is not.

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

UPDATE: Florida Mega-Casino Ballot Initiative Likely to Reach Voters

Casino Watch Focus reported that those behind the push for mega-resort casinos in Florida faced defeat in the Florida Legislature.  As a result, they have proposed the idea of gathering signatures and placing the issue on the ballot in 2014. The Genting group formed “New Jobs and Revenues for Florida.”  Despite claims that the group’s intentions are benign and simply investigating job creation, new evidence reported by Naples News Online, paints a very different picture:

Created in April, “New Jobs and Revenues for Florida” has already spent nearly $600,000 toward what appears to be an effort to put an initiative before voters, according to campaign finance records filed with state election officials that were made public Friday.

A list of expenditures filed with state election officials gives a relatively clear picture. Most notably, National Voter Outreach, a Nevada-based petition gatherer, was paid $50,000.

“National Voter Outreach is a political consulting firm specializing in organizing signature drives to qualify issues and candidates for the ballot,” the company says on its website.

Another $150,000 has been paid to Fort Lauderdale Attorney Bruce Rogow for consulting and legal services. Rogow, a high profile appellate lawyer, has argued a number of cases before the state Supreme Court, which would have to approve any ballot language. 

A closer look at additional connections further reveals that the Genting Group is investing heavily in a ballot initiative to attempt to divert the Florida Legislature.  The Naples News continues:

The group’s major initial expenditures also include $350,000 to Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates, an Alexandria, Va.- based media and campaign consulting group with strong ties to Republicans including Gov. Rick Scott.

“There are some obvious experts that are listed there,” said Brian Hughes, a spokesman for the group. “The key now is for the committee to determine which path forward makes sense.”

The group is backed almost exclusively by companies affiliated with mega-resort developer, Malaysian-based Genting Group. Together the Bayfront 2011 Development and Resorts Word have anted up $605,500.

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

Terrell Ownens, Santana Moss and 23 other players are under investigation for violating NFL gaming operation rules

Casino Watch Focus has reported numerous times on the NFL’s anti-gambling position.  The organization doesn’t like gambling on its sport because they know from other sports the propensity for corruption, game fixing and the devastating trail that can be left behind in gambling’s wake. They also have rules in place to prevent players from being involved with any gaming operation.  It’s too easy for the reputation of the NFL to be tarnished if someone is involved in a major gambling scandal.  An online source is reporting that one of those major gambling stories that is likely to reflect negatively on the NFL is making headlines as star NFL players have gotten involved in the wrong gambling business venture:

The NFL is investigating the reported investment by at least 25 NFL players in an Alabama casino that has been shut down, a business venture that might have run afoul of league rules. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the investigation Friday, a day after Yahoo! Sports reported that wide receivers Terrell Owens, Santonio Holmes, Santana Moss and other players had invested some $20 million in Country Crossing casino. The report also named defensive tackle Gerard Warren and linebacker Adalius Thomas, a free agent who played for the New England Patriots until his release before last season.

The Players involved could face severe fines or even suspension for their involvement.  The Alabama casino in question has been a major source of investigation, as key operators have pleaded guilty to offering millions in bribes.  The Bradenton Online continues:

Country Crossing owner Ronnie Gilley and two of his lobbyists have pleaded guilty to offering legislators millions in bribes. Country Crossing and another Alabama casino are at the center of a probe that resulted in nine people going to trial accused of buying and selling votes on pro-gambling legislation, including four former or current state senators. State police raids and court rulings closed the two bigger casinos and other gambling operations around the state. Yahoo! Sports said boxer Floyd Mayweather was an early investor who is trying to get his money back. Former NFL players Cornelius Griffin and Jevon Kearse also have put in money, the report said.

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

** ALERT ** Senate Leader Harry Reid is attempting to legalize internet gambling

Casino Watch Focus reported that with the midterm elections swinging the balance of power back to the republicans, Rep. Barney Frank’s bill to legalize Internet gambling was essentially dead in the water. The Wall Street Journal reported that Senate Leader Harry Reid will pick up where Rep. Frank left off in an attempt to make good on those who helped financially pave the way for his recent election:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s year-end to-do list includes top priorities for the constituencies that helped him eke out a narrow victory last month over former Nevada state legislator Sharron Angle.

Gambling interests and casino executives gave the senator more than $700,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, ranking fifth among all industry contributors. His biggest single benefactor: MGM Resorts International, whose executives and political action committee gave Mr. Reid more than $190,000 in combined campaign donations, according to the same data. Harrah’s Entertainment ranked fourth, with more than $83,000 in campaign contributions.

Senate Leader Reid is proposing a bill to repeal the ban on internet gambling and it ensures that casinos and horse tracks have the right to exclusively operate online gambling sites for the next two years. The Wall Street Journal also reported that Senate Leader Reid is considering attaching his bill to “must-pass legislation” before the end of the legislative session:

Several other people lobbying for the bill said they believe Mr. Reid may still try to get it attached to must-pass legislation. “Until Congress adjourns I am not saying it’s dead,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance.

Mr. Reid’s idea of moving an online poker bill that would heavily favor Nevada casino companies  has stirred up a tempest in Congress’s final days. While investors in casinos and slot machines grew excited, several Republican lawmakers disparaged the legislation as preying on “the weak and the vulnerable.”

Now, an online source is reporting that Senator Reid has decided to leave the tax extension bill alone and will instead use a spending bill that could pass to push his legislation.  For more information including urgent action steps, please visit the Casino Watch Internet Gambling Alert page here or at:

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

Just How did the gambling industry influenced FL’s recent gambling expansion ?

Casino Watch Focus previously reported that the Florida legislature passed a massive new gambling expansion compact with the Seminole Tribe.  It was also reported that non-tribal facilities would be expanding as well, through higher betting limits, longer hours of operation, and access to ATM machines on gambling floors.  Such attempts have failed time and time again, so why was the gambling industy so successful during this past legislative session?  A online source has a pretty good answer why:

The Seminole Indian Tribe and related businesses made $720,000 in political contributions in 2008—more than their giving in the previous 10 years combined and three times as much as that given in the 2006 election cycle.

Is it merely coincidental the previously gambling-expansion-skeptical Florida House of Representatives saw things differently during the 2009 legislative session and approved a gambling compact with the Seminoles resulting in the largest expansion of gambling in the history of the state?…

“In total, companies involved with gaming and racing gave $3 million to legislative candidates and party committees in 2008. Florida ranked sixth in the nation for gaming contributions,” the Institute’s report notes.

For the full article and a more comprehensive breakdown of the contributions, click HERE

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

Turner Report: New Gaming Commission Director has long ties to gambling industry

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appointed Jim Mathewson as the new Missouri Gaming Commission Director.  Mathewson, a Democrate, served in the State Senate from 1980 to 2006.  The Turner Report is explaining that Mathewson has ties to the gambling industry that go back to 2002, when pushed a bill to remove the $500 loss limit, on top of receiving more than two-thirds of his campaign contributions from gambling interest:

Mathewson’s 2002 reports filed with the Ethics Commission show he received $15,800 in contributions. Of that amount, $11,124 either came directly from casino interests or can be connected to a gambling industry lobbyist.

The October 2002 report shows Mathewson receiving $9,225 in contributions, with $5,475 coming from gambling interests. The contributions include

Isle of Capri $350
Isle of Capri-Boonville $575
Harrah’s Operating Company $575
Isle of Capri Casino-Kansas City $350
Ameristar Casino-Kansas City $1,000
Missouri Gaming Company, Argosy Casino $1,175
St. Joseph Riverboat Partners/Frontier Casino $587.50
Ameristar Casino-St. Charles $725
Mark Twain Casino LLC, $587.50
Aztar Missouri Riverboat Gaming Company, $500

To Read the Complete Turner Report Click Here

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