Scott on casinos: 'I've not taken any position'
Gov. Rick Scott went on the defensive Friday after our story about his willingness to consider Las Vegas-style destination resort casinos. Scott said his Nov. 17 meeting with Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands, was "on the way" to his the Republican Governor's Association in San Diego. Scott is meeting today with executives from Disney, a potential opponent to expanded casinos, for an event aboard the company's newest cruise ship, the Disney Dream.
"My view on gaming is, I don’t want the state to be largely dependent on gaming for revenues,'' Scott said at his first press conference as governor. "We’ve allowed gaming in the state state today and I haven’t taken any position on doing anything different with gaming."
When pressed, Scott again did not rule out expanded casino gaming, nor did he embrace it. He was asked again: "Are you open to Vegas-style destination casinos coming to Florida?"
He answered: "I don’t know why anybody would say that…I have not taken any position on the position. I've always said, right now I do not want our budget to be tied to gaming. We already have gaming in the state. I’m fine with what they’re doing. I’ve not taken any position or made any changes."
Unlike previous governors, Scott's decision not to shut the door to the casino games has opened the floodgates of activity among gambling lobbyists and sympathetic legislators eager to move something through the Legislature, where opposition has been strongest in the more conservative house.
Gov. Charlie Crist negotiated the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe and was opposed to interfering with it. Gov. Jeb Bush was so staunchly opposed to casino gambling, he campaigned against slot machines coming to Miami-Dade and Broward counties and missed the deadlines for negotiations with the Seminole Tribe on the compact.
Brian Burgess, the governor's press secretary, had this to say about the Herald/Times story:
"It (casino gambling) has not been the focus of his (Scott's) first week in office and it's not going to be the focus of his second week.''
He said the first paragraph of the story "is just not true." It reads: "Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday he is open to allowing Las Vegas-style casino resorts in Florida, opening the door for promoters to move swiftly ahead with legislation this year that would end the decades-old ban on the high stakes games."
Burgess said: "He's not championing it. You're making news and you're using my guy to do it. Leave my guy out of it when it's not on the agenda. He's not driving this. He's seen no proposal. I get that the story is out there and I'm not happy you're hanging it around my neck."
Here is the exchange between Scott and Herald/Times reporter Steve Bousquet from yesterday:
Q: "Speaking of jobs, I want to talk a little about gambling. What is your philosophical view about the expansion of gambling?"
Scott: "Sure, as I said in the campaign, I don't want the state, I don't want our revenue dollars to all be tied to gaming. We've already approved gaming in this state, so we'll look at it going forward. I had a meeting with Sidney Adelson and we really didn't talk about much other than his background."
Q: "Is there a possible backlash with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Seminole Tribe likes to think they've got exclusive privileges to operate these casinos."
Scott: "Well, my job is to be fair to all Floridians and that's what we're going to do."