Florida law limits gambling to Florida’s eight Native American casinos – Las Vegas-style gambling with the exception of craps and roulette – which are spread throughout five counties: Collier,
Hillsborough, Glades, Miami-Dade and Broward, home of three casinos. Florida has a strong bi-partisan tradition of opposing the legalization of casino-style gambling. Recent data reveal that full-service casinos and their associated hotels could generate $1.5 billion in spending annually in Florida, making the fourth-most populous state an attractive target for the gambling industry.
On one side is world’s largest entertainment Company Walt Disney and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, on the other side, billions of dollars in resort-casino investments.
The Florida Legislature, on April 16, 2013, commissioned, Spectrum Gaming Group, a two-part gaming study, to set a factual foundation for important policy choices the Legislature will consider during the 2014 Regular Session (the “Report”).
The Report states: “Florida’s gambling industry, included the estimated number of additional jobs created by retailer selling lottery tickets, was responsible for 55,648 direct jobs, 14,269 indirect jobs and 19,025 induced jobs”. Lobbyists for casino operator say: “an expansion will bring jobs and tourists and boost the economy”; Labor Market statistic shows that Florida unemployment rate, for the last six months of 2013, is equal to an average of 6.6%; Andrea Finger, a Disney spokeswoman, states: “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 business”; David Hart, the Florida Chamber of Commerce Vice President, says: “The goal is to protect Florida’s family-friendly image”; Republican Governor Rick Scott, 61, has not said whether or not he favors casino expansion.
High Companies on both sides of the dispute are sending lobbyists and campaign checks to Florida lawmakers. Gambling interests, looking for the Sunshine State, would have donated more than $3.4 million to Florida lawmakers since 2012, while Disney has contributed $1.7 million to Florida’s Republican Party and $759,000 to the Democratic opposition; state records show that the Disney has given Florida politicians more than $400,000 in free theme park tickets and entertainment in the past year.
Florida legislators met approximately ten days ago to discuss a rewrite of gambling laws and regulations. According to Republican state Senator Garrett Richter, who is also the Senate gaming committee chairman, a vote on the proposed bill will take place sometime after March 4 during the next 60-day legislative session begins.
Cav. Piero Salussolia, Esq.
Avv. Gemma A. Caterini (admitted only in Italy).
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