Category Archives: State Policy

GUEST ARTICLE: How the Florida House Gambling Bill is the More Sensible Approach

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling bills presented in this years Florida Legislature. Its very clear that both take very different approaches to the issue and a guest article published by Florida Politics by NoCasinos John Sowinski, breaks the issues down and concludes the House has the more sensible approach:

There are two things we can count on in Florida. In any given body of water, eventually the alligators will show up. And in any given meeting of the Florida Legislature, the same applies to gambling lobbyists. Feed either and they only become more insatiable.

With regard to the gambling interests, unfortunately, the Florida Senate is setting up a buffet of glutinous proportions. Proposed legislation calls for the biggest expansion of gambling in Florida’s history.

It literally would recreate our state in Nevada’s image, with casinos popping up in communities from the far reaches of the Panhandle to the end of the Everglades.

There would be two new Las Vegas-style casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade, a region already suffering from a glut of casinos. There would be a massive increase in gambling supply there, without a corresponding increase in gamblers, creating a dynamic in which the casinos could only survive by cannibalizing each other’s customers. Even the gambling industry’s own financial experts predict that 95 percent of the patrons would be locals, not tourists.

This type of gambling over-saturation is what brought the industry crashing down in Atlantic City, but not before it eviscerated existing local jobs and businesses from restaurants to retail stores.

But the Senate bill does not stop with more gambling in South Florida. Initially, casinos would spread to eight other counties. That only would be for starters because under Senate Bill 8, every horse track, dog track or jai alai fronton could become a casino.

Getting back to the alligator analogy, what the Senate is proposing is akin to taking 500 bags of marshmallows out into the middle of Lake Okeechobee at midnight and tossing them in the water….

Understanding this, leaders in the Florida House have taken a different tack. They have put forth a bill that fixes weaknesses in existing gambling law, closes loopholes that gambling lawyers continually exploit, stops the proliferation of slot machines throughout Florida, honors Florida’s constitutional restrictions on gambling, and respects the will of the people of Florida, who have consistently rejected statewide expansions of gambling. Finally, it provides for an agreement with the Seminole tribe that would achieve the stated intent of the original Seminole compact — holding the line on gambling and creating a firewall to stop the spread of casinos throughout Florida.

The entire article can be read HERE

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


Update: Florida Lottery Gambling Expansion Ruled Void

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issues related to the Florida Lottery. Most recently, it was reported that a new contract with the Florida Lottery could effectively double the amount of gambling from the lottery. An online source reported that a lawsuit was planned by Florida Speaker of the House:

According to the House, the Lottery does not have the authority to sign a contract requiring Legislature to pay more money for gaming. The council for the Speaker of the House stated that the Secretary of the Florida Lottery signed a multi-year contract with IGT Global Solutions Corporation that requires the Florida Lottery to spend more money in the future than what has been appropriated in the budget categories.

With the signing of the contract, the legislative budget for the Fiscal Year 2017 to 2018 will require an aggregate increase in the ticket machine budget categories and the categories will have to be realigned in order to accommodate the new increase via the contract. According to the council, this is impermissible.

Now that the case has been filed, a local judge wasted no time hearing the case. The Judge has ruled the contract is void and unenforceable. An online source explains:

 In what is the second legislative victory for House speaker Richard Corcoran (pictured), on Tuesday, Judge Karen Gievers said that Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie failed to comply with a requirement of Florida law that states that certain contracts have to be pre-approved by the Legislature prior to signing. Judge Gievers 15-page ruling said that in signing the contract, with IGT Global Solutions Corp., a subsidiary of London-based International Game Technology (IGT), and obligating the state to nearly $13 million more than was authorized by the Legislature, the agency overstepped its budgetary authority.

Judge Gievers declared the contract, which would run until 2028, “void and unenforceable,” which means the agency will have to reconfigure a new contract to provide the Florida Lottery with a selection of solutions and services including Powerball and other ticket games.

In a joint statement with Judiciary Chairman Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor and Rules Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami, Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said “Today’s decision is a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law,” and, “It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy,” according to the /Tampa Bay Times.

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


Seminole Tribe Say Both Florida Gambling Bills are Unacceptable

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts by the Florida Legislature to reach a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe. Most recentlythe balance of negotiating power shifted to the Seminole Tribe as a court has ruled the State violated the exclusivity agreement and is allowing the Seminole Tribe to offer table games through 2030. As another legislative session begins in the Florida Legislature, politicians are attempting to deal with gambling expansion issues while balancing the long standing relationship with the Seminole Tribe. As recently reported, both the Florida House and Senate have gambling bills moving forward, but they are very different and they both impact a potential new deal with the Seminole Tribe. The Tribe, while calling the House bill less objectionable, has indicated nether bill is one they can support. An online source explains:

Two competing bills in the Florida legislature each seek to find different solutions to the fact that tribe and state have been unable to negotiate a new compact since the previous one expired in 2015. The Seminoles this week rejected both, even the one that’s supposedly designed to protect their interests.

A bill currently wending its way through the House would allow the Seminoles to be granted exclusivity on banked card games, as was the case with its previous compact, but in exchange for $3 billion in payments to the state over seven years. By contrast, a bill authored by the influential senator, Bill Galvano, would charge the Seminoles the same fee over the same timeline but for the right to offer craps and roulette, as well as blackjack.

In a letter to legislative leaders this week, Seminole Tribal Council chairman Marcellus Osceola said that while the House bill was “less objectionable,” neither bills “make economic sense for the tribe.” We think they’re talking about the “$3 billion to the state” bit. The House bill is less objectionable because it is essentially a status quo bill, an antidote to the rampant gambling expansion of Galvano’s proposal. It’s clear that, for the Seminoles, the thought of exclusivity on craps and roulette would not offset the increased competition from the proliferation of blackjack and slots throughout the state. The tribe’s point-blank refusal is indicative of the its new-found leverage in the negotiations, thanks to a recent court ruling in their favor.

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

 


Florida Legislature and Gambling Industry Brace for Massive Gambling Expansion Bill introduced in the Florida Senate

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling issues in Florida. The most recent gambling issues have centered around the Seminole Tribe Gambling Compact  and exclusivity of table gamesand gambling venues right to expand gamblingMost of these issues are intertwined, but almost all gambling expansion requires the approval of the Florida legislature and each session these issues are up for debate. This year is no different so it should come as no surprise that a new gambling bill has been proposed for the upcoming session. The scope and size of the bill however, is rather surprising. An online source summarizes the details:

A comprehensive bill to reform gambling in the US state of Florida has been introduced. Saying he wants to avoid the arguments that have hampered previous efforts, Bill Galvano, president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, has launched a bill that offers “something for everyone.”

Galvano introduced Senate Bill 8 two months before the legislature convenes, saying he wants to give all sides time to compromise. The bill would allow major slots expansion, allow blackjack in South Florida pari-mutuel card rooms, deal with daily fantasy sports and offer a new gaming compact to the Seminole Indians.

The specifics of the bill will be expanded upon as session nears, but the direction of the bill pointing firmly in the direction of massive expansion, will surely catch the eye of everyone involved, including the Florida House who seems to prefer less gambling, especially in light of the complexities involved with the Seminole Compact.   The source continues:

The bill’s fate looks uncertain with the House preferring a contraction of gaming and the Seminoles saying a loss of gambling exclusivity would mean an end of their compact, thus an end of payments to the state. 

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


New Poll Shows Florida Voters Overwhelmingly Support Voter Choice In Gambling Expansion Matters

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to help ensure the people of Florida have the ability to directly impact gambling expansion. Recent efforts have centered around a ballot initiative that would amend the constitution to require a vote of the people before any gambling expansion legislation can be pushed forward by the legislature. Voters in Charge, the group responsible for the petition, have secured the signatures to keep the process moving forward the bill is not before the Florida Supreme Court to ensure it meets the proper requirements. As the process moves forward, its important to know how well the amendment would do on the ballot, and a new poll aims to answer that questions.   The poll results, released by No Casinos and conducted by Hill Research Consultants, was outlined by Orlando Politics Online: 

– 69% support a referendum requiring voter approval of all gambling expansion decisions. Such a referendum, the Voter Control of Gambling Amendment, currently is before the Florida Supreme Court for placement on the 2018 ballot. Only 21% oppose it.

– 83% believe that Florida voters should decide gambling policy in Florida. By comparison, 7% believe the Florida Legislature should decide, 3% believe the Governor should decide and 3% believe the courts should decide.

– 72% indicated they would be less likely to support a political candidate who supports expanded gambling in Florida without a statewide vote. By contrast, 18% are more likely to support such a candidate and 6% say it makes no difference.

– 75% disagree that more gambling in their city will improve the quality of life for them or their families, while 18% believe more gambling improves their quality of life.

The poll was directed at actual Florida voters who voted in recent elections. The margin for error was under four percent, so the implications are pretty clear. No Casino’s President, John Sowinski, summarized:

“The will of the voters could not be clearer,’’ said John Sowinski, President of No Casinos. “Regardless of political party, Floridians overwhelmingly want a say in whether gambling will be expanded in our state. They understand the negative social and economic consequences. This is why the gaming industry continually tries to circumvent public opinion, hiring lobbyists and lawyers to push their agenda of more and more gambling in the Legislature and courts. Elected officials should take heed — it is not only good public policy, it is also smart politics to reject expanding gambling in Florida.”

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


Guest Article: Only Casino Interests Push Casinos in Florida

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of the Florida based group, No Casinos, and their attempts to protect Florida families from the ever increasing dangers of expanded gambling. The group’s president, John Sowinski, has addressed these issues on many levels, including directly answering positions or articles that seek to advance the casino’s interest. This article is one such response:

As the president of No Casinos, I occasionally respond to the pro-gambling missives of an industry that has the same interest in Florida that a tick has in a basset hound. But one that recently appeared in Sunshine State News is a bit novel. According to Steve Norton, who helped bring big-time casinos to Atlantic City and now wants to do the same favor for Florida, Orlando has blocked the rest of the state from gambling happily ever after May 12 guest column, “Floridians Should Look Beyond Orlando to Weigh Casinos’
Benefits”. …

No Casinos gets singled out for its effectiveness in this effort and I certainly appreciate the shout-out, even if in his very first sentence, Horton spilled the beans that I get paid. I only wish I got paid as much as the people on his side. But seriously, and with all due humility, we are not as good as Horton implies. It’s not like casinos are some unknown quantity that we can spin a gullible public into opposing.

Casinos are multiplying in some parts of the country like amoebas in a petri dish, getting so crowded that they now are cannibalizing each other to survive. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in one. So we don’t have to plot any voodoo marketing strategies. All we have to do is shine a light on the industry and say, “Hey, look everybody.” Rest assured, when Florida has said no to expanded gambling, time and again, it has done so with eyes wide open….

A common myth perpetuated by the industry is that more and bigger casinos spur economic development and create jobs. In fact, the state’s chief economist has dismissed that argument. Casinos don’t create new business. They simply divert money that would have been spent elsewhere to slot machines and card tables.

In its comprehensive analysis of the Florida gambling market, the Spectrum Gaming Group reported that 93 percent of revenues from an expanded casino market would come from residents, not a stampede of high rollers flying in from around the globe. That means little economic benefit, no significant number of new jobs and no increases in local salaries. This is all public record, not No Casino spin.

But for argument’s sake, why not? Why not open the door to more casinos? Here is my answer: Casinos create gambling addiction and then profit from it. Research indicates that living close to a casino doubles the chance of someone becoming a problem gambler, with a third or more of casino revenues coming from such problem gamblers.

There also is growing research about the addictive nature of high-tech slot machines, which actually can transfix players in a zone, dribbling out just enough small winnings to keep them pumping in more money. It’s all about increasing seat time to maximize losses.

For the complete article, please click HERE 

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


Florida’s Voters in Charge Ballot Initiative gets Senate Sponsor and Court Review

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing development of a ballot initiative aimed at requiring all gambling matters to be put up for a vote of the people before the state legislators can enact legislation. The ballot initiative is sponsored by the group Voters in Charge. The group is linked to No Casino’s through mutual president John Sowinski, an anti-gambling group that believes the Florida legislature often goes too far against the will of the voters when expanding gambling. The petition recently received enough signatures to have the language reviewed. Now, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, is taking the next step in the process and having the court review the validity of the proposed policy change. The Saint Peters Blog explains:

Attorney General *Pam Bondi* is asking the state Supreme Court to review a proposed constitutional amendment on gambling. Bondi sent a letter to the court Friday, asking it to judge the initiative’s “validity.”

The Voters In Charge committee, the group behind the amendment, is chaired by John Sowinski. He also heads the Orlando-based *No Casinos anti-gambling expansion organization. The two are separate entities.

“Our state’s history shows that you cannot expand gambling even a little in one place without it resulting in an explosion of gambling in another,” Sowinski said in a January statement. “The people of Florida should have the ultimate say when it comes to deciding on gambling expansion, not gambling industry lawyers and lobbyists.”

Additionally, the state examined the economic impact to the state. No true value was determined, but its clear that it’s a minimal impact as it simply puts gambling bills on the ballot to be voted on by the people. Some issue need clarification as well, including how retroactive the policy would be in relation to newly approved gambling legislation or court actions. Florida Politics Online explains: 

A panel of state economists stalemated this week on the financial impact of the Voter Control of Gambling amendment. One question that vexed panel members was whether the amendment would be “retroactive.” It’s not clear that the amendment will only prevent expanded gambling after it’s approved, or also could knock out some games now being played in Florida.

John Sowinski, who chairs Voters in Charge, also heads No Casinos, a gambling-expansion opposition group; “One of the things that’s very clear about the amendment … is that it has no impact or very minor impact on the state fiscally,” he said. “We think it will work out to the state’s benefit, in the long run, to put voters in charge of whether certain forms of casino gambling are legal in the state.” “It’s only in recent years that murky case law has given rise to the idea that the Legislature can legalize forms of casino gambling,” Sowinski said. “This amendment will make crystal clear that voters should be in charge of legalizing new forms of casino gambling in this state.”

When the group was asked about its ability to be retroactive, John Sowinski clarified that the idea is to cover new items that the legislature might try to push quickly prior to the amendment going into law, but it not be so retroactive as to disrupt the current gambling landscape. An earlier Florida Politics article elaborates:

“We didn’t want some things set out to beat the clock,” said *John Sowinski*, who also heads the No Casinos anti-gambling expansion organization. He explained he didn’t want gambling concerns trying to roll out new games before the amendment takes effect. But he also said he wanted to “preserve the status quo as much as possible.” In fact, another panelist had asked whether some gambling would be grandfathered in. Finally, Sowinski said that he would consult with his attorneys and report back.

 Finally, the ballot initiative has received its required state sponsor. The Saint Peters Blog reports:

A former state Senator has signed on to represent the backers of a proposed constitutional amendment on gambling. Florida Supreme Court records show Miami attorney Dan Gelber filed a notice of appearance on behalf of Voters In Charge the committee behind the amendment. Gelber, 55, also was Democratic Leader when he served in the House and unsuccessfully ran for Attorney General in 2010, losing to Republican Pam Bondi. 

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