Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Anticasino group to form again as gambling is pushed in South Florida

TALLAHASSEE — The full-throttle push to bring casino gambling to South Florida has prompted the head of the No Casinos political committee to resurrect his organization to oppose expanded gambling in Florida.

John Sowinski, an Orlando public relations consultant and president of No Casinos Inc., activated the dormant organization late last week as legislators announced they are drafting a bill to offer three Las Vegas-style casino licenses in Miami-Dade and Broward as part of a push to bring resort-style casinos to Florida.

The antigambling group raised $1.5 million in 1994 and successfully fought an attempt to amend the Constitution that year to bring casinos to Florida. It did not succeed in persuading Florida voters to reject the constitutional amendment to allow slot machine gaming at parimutuels in 2004. It was approved 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent.

This year, No Casinos will partner with law enforcement, faith-based organizations and business groups to oppose the legislation, Sowinski said. Traditionally, Orlando's theme parks, along with Central Florida business organizations, have been a big opponent to the expansion of gambling in Florida.

"This is a different battle, in that it's in the Legislature,'' Sowinski said. "But the only chance it has to pass is if people in Tallahassee think they can do it in the dark of night — without the public paying attention. Our goal is to make sure it gets attention.''

Sowinski said his group will appeal to legislators of both parties.

"We will remind Republicans who count on the votes of conservative Republicans that you can't be pro-families and pro-gambling at the same time," he said. "And we'll remind Democrats, who count on votes of those who want to protect the most vulnerable, that you can't be for the less fortunate and for expanded gambling at the same time."

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, one of the sponsors of the casino legislation, said he is not surprised at the re-emergence of No Casinos.

"I did anticipate an organized opposition to the bill by traditional opponents to casino gaming, possibly funded by entities — either in-state or out-of-state — that don't want to see an expansion of high-end gaming in Florida," he said. "I look forward to the debate."

Also opposed to the effort is the parimutuel industry with its 26 horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons throughout the state, as well as the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has the only sanctioned casino parlors in the state. Despite the broader opposition, No Casinos will not accept money from gambling interests, Sowinski said.

"We know there is the potential to leave money on the table, but our policy is we're ideologically opposed to gambling money," he said.

In addition to Sowinski, the group is headed by Paul Seago of the Apopka Chamber of Commerce — who worked on the 2004 effort — and Adam McKin­non, whose grandmother is former U.S. Sen. Paula Hawkins, a longtime gambling opponent.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at

Anticasino group to form again as gambling is pushed in South Florida 09/19/11 [Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2011 10:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  2. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin


    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    In their third year with pitching coach Neil Allen, the Twins have been one of the surprises of the American League.
  4. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond


    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg mayoral election is about going forward, not back


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally