Make us your home page

Gambling expansion could affect Florida's family-friendly pitch, report cautions

TALLAHASSEE — If Florida decides to expand casino gambling, the move could harm the state and Orlando's tourist brand, says a new gaming report commissioned by the Florida Legislature.

The report, released late Monday, comes at a time when lawmakers plan to review and rewrite the state's gambling laws, and decide whether gambling should be expanded statewide.

"The brand equity of Orlando has benefits for the entire state" and "expanded gambling may fundamentally change the state of Florida as a place to live and visit," writes Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey-based gambling consulting firm. "Rather than benefiting the state, expanded gambling (especially casinos) could make Florida a less-attractive tourist destination."

Those observations may come as a surprise to many, who expected that Spectrum would produce a report that advocates for expanded gambling since it does the bulk of its business on behalf of that industry.

But the head of the Senate Gaming Committee emphasized that the report's goal is to provide lawmakers with a map of the terrain.

"The report does not, and will not, make policy recommendations," said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples. He said it will be the responsibility of the committee "to review gambling statutes, to address the ambiguities, inconsistencies and exceptions in current law, and to craft an action plan."

Crafting a state gambling plan has been an elusive goal for decades. As the state's parimutuel industry has rapidly declined in popularity, the industry has pushed to offset its losses by installing card rooms and slot machines — a situation that the report notes has helped prop up and subsidize the declining greyhound, jai alai and thoroughbred racing industries.

Legislators paid Spectrum $388,000 to assess Florida's gambling market, and this is the first of a two-part report. The second report, on the economic impact of gaming on communities, is due in October.

Lawmakers plan a series of meetings to discuss the issue around the state, starting in the fall, Richter said.

Among the report's other findings:

• Reported revenues at Florida's horse and dog tracks are wildly understated because Florida's Division of Parimutuel Wagering "does not collect data on out-of-state-generated handle, which is the single largest component of handle."

• Florida's largest greyhound tracks are ready to give up their dog racing. With losses of $35 million from greyhound racing in the past year, only three tracks made a profit, and that was because of revenues from card rooms.

• Gambling expansion is headed to the Panhandle. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, based in Atmore, Ala., has land in Escambia County and operates the Gretna racetrack, which is operating controversial flag drop races. The tribe has options to own, or agreements to control, 10 parimutuel permits along the Interstate 10 corridor between Pensacola and Jacksonville.

Gambling expansion could affect Florida's family-friendly pitch, report cautions 07/02/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 9:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]