By Paul Davies
February 26, 2014
Sen. Garrett Richter’s gambling plan for Florida is long on expansion and short on reform.
Give the Naples Republican credit for understanding that Florida’s current gambling policy is a hodgepodge of plans slapped together to fit the various desires of different gambling interests.
But, the senator’s three bills – including one 453-page bureaucratic behemoth – is mainly about legalizing two Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida. The biggest reform is laughable: dog tracks will have to report injuries to greyhounds.
The bill would also create a five-member Gaming Control Board appointed by the governor. It remains to be seen if the Gaming Board would be about regulating or rubberstamping the gambling industry.
In Pennsylvania, the gaming control board was quickly packed with cronies who awarded casino licenses to politically-connected applicants. One winning applicant was a major donor to a state senator and a convicted felon who later got indicted for lying about his mob ties.
To be sure, creating an independent, regulatory framework to oversee all the gambling options already available in Florida is a good idea. But, the state should focus on implementing the regulatory structure before enabling a major expansion of gambling. Pushing both gambling and reforms at the same time – as Sen. Richter’s unwieldy bills show – is akin to changing tires on a moving race car at the Daytona 500.
This gets to the larger question: Why is Florida even considering more gambling?