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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio joins gambling opponents condemning 'easy solution'



Marco Rubio, former House speaker and U.S Senate candidate, joined leaders of the Christian Coalition and the Florida Baptist Convention Friday to condemn legislators for contemplating expanded gambling both on Indian lands in around the state as a way to close Florida's $3 billion budget  gap.

"The Seminole compact is an agreement where the state must create millions of losers to give the state the dollars they seek,'' said Dennis Baxley, former state representative from Ocala and now director of the Christian Coalition of Florida.

He said the economic promises coming from the tribe and others are likely exaggerated. He said that to get to the $1 billion in projected revenues from a Senate bill that gives the tribe full casinos and the horse and dog tracks lower-level slot machines, gamblers would have to lose $7 billion.

"Some things you just don't do, no matter how broke you are,'' he said. "The broad expansion of predatory gambling would be, metaphorically, the largest tax increase in Florida history.''

He called it was "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, elderly and the addicted to buy a false hope.''

Rubio said they recognized the difficult task before lawmakers but warned that by choosing to expand gambling, government becomes addicted to the losses of gambling addicts.

"There is a real moral issue with asking government to expand its operations to be increasingly dependent on an activity we should be discouraging, not encouraging,'' he said.

"It's fool's gold,'' Rubio added. "Much of this money is already being spent elsewhere in the economy.''

He argued that money used by gamblers could otherwise be spent on more productive and positive entertainment and the revenue the state depends on becomes an unstable source of funding -- as the decline in state lottery revenues during the recession have shown.

"Gambling appears to be an easy solution to a big problem,'' he said. Those who support it "misunderstand.'' Unlike taxes, he said, this isn't about government telling people what they can do with their own money. "This is about government becoming an invested partner in encouraging people to undertake an activity that we know disproportionately affects people who make less money'' and who are elderly.''

"I don't want to live in a state where the government encourages people to gamble in order to fund more and more government operations,'' he said.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 7:34pm]


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