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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gaming & tea-party trouble for Mike Haridopolos



Who knew someone from the tea party cared about more government revenue and gaming?

Apparently, Everett Wilkinson, South Florida Tea Party, does. Here's his open letter to the senate president, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

--Marc Caputo 

March 14, 2011

Senator Mike Haridopolos 
President Florida State Senate 
409 The Capitol 
404 South Monroe Street 
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100

Dear Senator Haridopolos:

The Destination Casino bill now before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee by the Las Vegas Sands corporation would cost the state $1.8 billion in lost Indian gaming revenue if it was passed and signed into law as written.This special interest bill is fiscally irresponsible as it is currently constituted.

A report in the Miami Herald said the Seminoles are paying the state $378 million a year based on the terms of the compact approved by the legislature and signed by Governor Charlie Crist. Passage of the Las Vegas Sands casino bill legalizing casinos outside of Dade and Broward would immediately end the Seminoles requirement to pay the state.It would be five years before the first casino opened. The state would lose $378 million or more each year. The one time $50 million licensing fees for the five casinos anticipated in the bill would not come close to making up this revenue loss, nor is it likely five casinos would ever be licensed.

We also question whether the new casinos once open could actually replace the revenue from the Seminoles at the 10% tax rate on casinos proposed under the Sands bill. Next fiscal year between the Broward/Dade slot operators and the Seminole Tribe the State will see about $500 million in Tax and compact dollars.

At a 10% tax rate the proposed destination casinos would have to have as much gross Revenue as the entire Las Vegas strip just to match the revenue the State is currently receiving from the pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward and the Tribe. The entire Las Vegas Strip for 2009 had Revenues of $5.5 billion. "That is unlikely"

While many in the Tea Party movement are libertarians who are not against the expansion of casino gambling per se, this bill as drafted will increase Florida's budget problems, not fix them. Given the way the 'regions' are constructed in the bill we also question whether local referendums could pass in any county but Miami-Dade and Broward thus creating one casino in those two counties which could not possibly generate as much revenue as we currently receive from the Seminoles.

The large contributions to the Republican Party of Florida and your US Senate campaign from executives at the Las Vegas sands corporation must also be viewed with suspicion if this bill leaves committee.

I agree with you when you wrote in your book for Brevard Community College “During those two years, he ( the Senate President ) is a king, exercising more power within his chamber,” and "“Traditionally, a member who accepts a chairmanship tacitly agrees to support the president’s agenda. As a result, Senate presidents expect a degree of loyalty, if not complete obedience, from their committee chairs" .'If this bill leaves committee as written everyone in the Tea Party will know you approved it.

Everett Wilkinson 
Chairman, South Florida Tea Party

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 9:56am]


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