Florida Gambling Expansion Heavily Opposed by Sunshine State Voters, New Poll Finds

Posted on: March 20, 2017, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: March 20, 2017, 01:53h.

Florida gambling expansion efforts are heavily opposed by likely voters in the Sunshine State, a new poll finds.

Florida gambling expansion Rick Scott
Governor Rick Scott wants a new Florida gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe on his desk soon. (Image: Pat Carter/Associated Press)

According to a study performed by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, an independent surveying firm with offices in Washington, DC, and Jacksonville, Florida, just eight percent of Florida voters say they support expanded gambling. That compares to 84 percent who said they want gaming left as is, or reduced.

No Casinos, the leading lobbyist in Tallahassee working against casino growth, championed the findings.

“It’s time to stop listening to gambling lobbyists and listen to the people,” No Casinos President John Sowinski said. “A vast majority of Floridians don’t want their elected officials to expand gambling, because they know that more gambling hurts the quality of life for them and their families.”

Point Taken

Florida lawmakers and Governor Rick Scott (R) have been trying to find a resolution to the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact that legally expired in 2015. The state House and Senate differ on what path is best, while the powerful Native American group isn’t budging on its blackjack monopoly.

The latest bill to gain ground comes from State Rep. Mike La Rosa (R-District 42). House Bill 7037 seeks to execute a new compact between the Seminoles and state, and grant the tribal community with the exclusive rights to banked games (blackjack) in exchange for a minimum payment of $3 billion over seven years.

Pari-mutuel facilities wouldn’t gain access to blackjack, and gaming throughout the state would essentially remain the same as it is today. La Rosa’s bill is expected to be heard this week in the chamber’s Ways & Means Committee.

The Senate gaming bill, authored by Sen. Bill Galvano (R-District 21), would grant the Seminoles with the right to offer craps and roulette in addition to blackjack. But the catch is that pari-mutuel venues would receive the state’s blessing to house blackjack tables.

The Seminoles prefer to negotiate out of the public eye, but it’s presumed the tribe’s leaders oppose Galvano’s measure and will likely support La Rosa’s.

Expanding Elsewhere

The Seminoles continue to operate their five gaming facilities in Florida free of a valid gaming compact. Since the agreement expired, the tribe has continued to send tax revenue payments to Tallahassee and largely kept business as usual.

In legal terms, the tribe is operating in violation of state law. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Native American groups can operate Class I and II gaming on sovereign lands. But for the coveted Class III group, which includes slots and table games, an arrangement must be reached with the state.

The resolution with the strongest odds seems to be a new multibillion-dollar blackjack agreement with the Seminoles in the coming months. As for gambling expansion, the Seminoles are looking north.

Earlier this month, the tribe, which owns the Hard Rock brand, purchased the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal from Carl Icahn. The Atlantic City casino will be the company’s 11th casino, and first in New Jersey.