No Casinos Comments to Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering

Earlier today, No Casinos Executive Director Paul Seago made the following comments at a hearing of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering regarding potential rules governing pari-mutuel facilities. We also submitted the comments in writing to the division:

“No Casinos was formed in 1978 by then-Governor Reubin Askew to oppose the first of what would be several attempts to amend Florida’s constitution to allow full scale Las Vegas-style casino gambling in our state. Our organization has fought every proposed casino amendment – 1978, 1986, 1994 and 2004. We oppose the expansion of gambling in Florida because we believe it is the wrong social and economic policy for Florida.

One of the lessons we have learned first-hand through these fights is that you cannot control, limit or curb gambling by expanding gambling. We call it “Gambling Creep” because no matter how seemingly benign or limited the expansion is – it won’t stop there.

Because of Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, when the voters of Florida approved the lottery, the native tribes were given video pull-tab devices. In order to “compete” pari-mutuels were given simul-cast wagering. When the legislature legalized small stakes poker, the tribes were able to open poker rooms. Again in the name of “competition” pari-mutuels were given poker rooms. The poker rooms were supposed to help struggling pari-mutuels be able to award more in purses for races and jai-alai matches, not become a mini-casino.

The new proposed rule, 61D-2.204 is good, but not strong enough. No Casinos urges the Division to implement rules, such as the proposed rule 61D-2.204 from January 2014 that include the creation of oval tracks and the creation of a club house enclosure.

There is a disturbing trend of groups seeking to open poker rooms, with the hope of one-day obtaining slot machines or other Las Vegas-style gambling in their facilities. Their path is achieved by exploiting loopholes in the rules governing pari-mutuel racing, in order to open card rooms while expending as little capital possible on the pari-mutuel activity that is the very basis of their permits and licenses.

First it was barrel-racing and now the so-called “flag drop racing” allows potential gambling owners to do as little as possible in terms of actual racing. Jai-alai matches have gone from the breathtaking action of professional players to exhibitions of cooks and dishwashers essentially playing “catch” and counting it as a performance so the poker tables can stay open.

We strongly believe that Article X, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution is clear that only the types of pari-mutuel pools authorized by law in 1968 are allowed under the Constitution. Therefore, newly devised styles of racing would fall outside of what is permitted by the constitution.

When gambling in Florida was limited to horse and dog racing and jai-alai, owners of these facilities invested substantial resources to create venues that not only met the standards of established sanctioning bodies, but for the enjoyment of those who came to watch the performances. Owners of recently opened pari-mutuels and those looking to create new facilities should be held to the same standard.

If our state continues to allow this fast-track to a poker license and eventually slot machines, we will see a dramatic increase in the number of new facilities and more casino-style gambling throughout Florida, and with it the associated ills that gambling brings to businesses, communities and families.

National studies have demonstrated that casino-style gambling creates additional crime.  In addition, the winnings at stake attract criminals committing burglary, larceny, and auto thefts – all of which generally are higher around casino areas. In some cases these crimes are being committed by compulsive gamblers who need to feed their addiction.  Criminals prey on individuals who have won large amounts of cash.

Study after study has confirmed the link between casino gambling and increased crime. The spin-off societal costs from increased criminal victimization and gambling addiction are just too high a price to pay. Expanding casino gambling is a bad deal for Florida.

No Casinos urges the Division to pass the strongest possible rules to prevent future schemes to establish unconstitutional pari-mutuel activities whose owners seek only to profit from their true goal – opening casino-style gambling in their facility and cashing in on the backs of Florida’s businesses and families.”