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Trigaux: Can 'Pushing Luck' film stem new push for casino gambling?

The short film Pushing Luck was created to denounce ongoing efforts to bring Las Vegas-style casino gambling to Florida.

It premiered Wednesday evening in Tampa's Hyde Park after first being shown last month in Tallahassee to select political leaders. Now Pushing Luck is part of a statewide campaign this week by the No Casinos antigambling group to rally against the latest lobbying efforts to expand casino gambling in Florida.

The most likely landing spot would be the Miami area, where pro-casino groups say local polls favor the idea.

The film takes a jaundiced view of betting meccas such as Atlantic City, suggesting the economic blight from gambling there could spread here.

Pushing Luck features a host of Floridians taking various swipes at the idea of "destination casino resorts."

Gray Swoope, Florida's commerce secretary and CEO of Enterprise Florida, questions the promise that more gambling would "create lots of jobs" and boost the economy.

Florida historian and retired University of South Florida professor Gary Mormino explains how organized gambling first expanded from Miami to Tampa, where gambling became a "source of tremendous corruption.''

Mormino talks about the state's mistaken belief that it can contain new developments such as gambling. "It is a fantasy," he says.

Others in the film speak about the costs of people ruined by gambling habits.

The dustup over expanded gambling comes as the state mulls an agreement, which expires in 2015, that lets the Seminole Tribe of Florida offer card games. That so-called Seminole Compact lets the tribe offer blackjack and other games at locations including its Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.

That same deal gives the tribe exclusive rights to offer Las Vegas-style gambling outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Should the tribe lose that right because of an expanded gambling bill, the Seminoles can stop paying lucrative fees to the state.

All of this should make for a lively 2014 legislative session.

Already this week, the Florida Senate unveiled a gambling proposal that would authorize one destination casino resort each in Broward and Miami-Dade counties that could offer slots, blackjack, roulette and craps.

The proposal would require casino operators to pay annual $5 million license fees and spend at least $2 billion on each site over five years.

Also, it would let voters decide whether they want to control future gambling expansions.

"Today, Florida legislators are struggling with the same question that political leaders have encountered for decades: how far to go to expand gambling in the face of a mounting competition for the gambling dollar."

Times/Herald writer Mary Ellen Klas wrote that line in 2009 when Florida struggled over how much gambling the Seminole Tribe could offer. But it could just as easily have been written in the 1920s, '30s, '70s, '80s and '90s.

And doubly so today.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

Trigaux: Can 'Pushing Luck' film stem new push for casino gambling? 02/26/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 7:30pm]
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