No Casinos Op-Ed: Sun Sentinel wrong to lament loss of resort casinos

SunSentinel

By John Sowinski, September 30, 2015 

I certainly appreciate, even if I don’t understand, the Sun Sentinel’s avid devotion to casino gambling.

But surely there are injustices more egregious to opine on than Las Vegas Sands packing its bags, dumping its Tallahassee lobbyists and leaving town. Gov. Rick Scott and legislators should take pride in your blaming them for this turn of events.

They have joined a long list of state leaders who have said no to the pro-casino agenda advocated by the Sun Sentinel. This opposition dates back to 1978, when Reubin Askew first formed No Casinos to defeat a gambling referendum promoted by outside interests. For more than 35 years, there has been a solid, bi-partisan rejection of the Vegas-izing of Florida.

Instead of pouting, the Sun Sentinel editorial board should look on the bright side.

Year after year, national and international gambling conglomerates have sprayed money on Tallahassee with a fire hose. They have hired the most connected lobbyists, funded political campaigns, contributed to political parties and bought access into every crack and crevice.

As we learned in the last presidential debate, Donald Trump was among their number. And yet, not Trump, not Las Vegas Sands and not Genting Malaysia could buy what the voters of Florida have rejected time and time again.

“No matter who wanted it, they weren’t going to get destination gaming in Florida; it doesn’t matter who you are,” Sands Vice President Andy Abboud told floridapolitics.com.

The Sun Sentinel used that quote in its editorial as if it were something to lament. Instead, shouldn’t that warm the heart of any righteous member of the Fourth Estate?

How many media lectures have we heard about the corrupting influence of big money and special interests in Tallahassee? How often have we heard pundits despair about the influence of lobbyists and the lack of principle by politicians?

And now we have politicians sticking to principle and the special interests leaving town. That’s a good thing and should be celebrated, not lamented.

In arguing for Vegas-style resort casinos, you cite the existing number of pari-mutuel casinos and tribal casinos already in South Florida.

There already is a glut of supply and nary enough customers to go around. In the face of that glut, the Sun Sentinel’s consistent response has been to add more gambling and bigger casinos to the mix and somehow argue this constitutes a comprehensive, statewide policy.

Despite the economic analyses to the contrary, the editorial board seems to think resort casinos will create an army of gamblers stumbling into South Florida like a wave of Walking Dead zombies. In truth, all the new casinos would do is cannibalize what exists now, creating more shrill demands by those being devoured to expand even more.

And then this insanity will begin creeping north into the rest of the state.

Florida has the best tourism brand in the world. It seems that every year we set a new visitor record.

Our economy is on a solid rebound. Tax revenues are hitting all-time highs. The focus is on diversification, with projects like the deepening of the Port Everglade shipping canal, which will bring far better jobs to Broward County than more slot machines and poker tables.

And the Sun Sentinel remains obsessed with inviting a parasite to the party.

Please, take a hint from Las Vegas Sands. Move on.

John Sowinski is president of No Casinos, Inc.