Published: March 11, 2015
Perhaps it’s a scare card to force the Seminole Tribe of Florida to ante up at the negotiating table as a key portion of the tribe’s gambling compact with the state nears its end. Yet the massive gambling bill offered by House Majority Leader Dana Young deserves serious scrutiny for the damage it could do to Florida. The last thing this state needs is destination casinos and more gambling, and the focus in Tallahassee should be limited to negotiating a new deal with the Seminoles and helping struggling dog tracks.
Big gambling bills are an annual ritual during the legislative session, and they usually collapse under their own weight. But the game is different this year, and the stakes are higher. A key portion of the compact with the Seminoles that gives the tribe exclusive rights to offer banked card games such as blackjack expires this summer, and negotiations between Gov. Rick Scott and the tribe appear to be at a standstill. The economic situation for many existing parimutuel facilities, particularly the dog tracks, has only gotten worse. Gambling interests just gave generous political contributions to help Scott and state legislators last year, and one group is sitting on prime bayfront property in downtown Miami and is eager to build a casino.
Given Young’s leadership position in the conservative House, which has been resistant to more gambling in the past, it would be a mistake to dismiss this year’s legislation (HB 1233) as posturing. The Tampa Republican says her bill would bring “an unprecedented contraction of gaming in the state.” In fact, it’s a blueprint for expanded gambling that would damage Florida’s image and undermine its tourism marketing toward families.