Monday, January 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Expanded gambling a bad bet

Less than five months before the Florida legislative session opens, state lawmakers are again thinking about expanding gambling. But a new study finds it isn't worth the gamble: Florida wouldn't necessarily add much state revenue or create significantly more jobs, and money would likely be siphoned from existing businesses. The state should not encourage an industry that makes money by taking advantage of its residents and creates all sorts of social drawbacks.

Twenty months after a pair of casino companies failed to win legislative approval to build destination casinos in South Florida, gambling interests of all stripes are again making a full-court press to change Florida's gambling regulations. Big contributions from gambling interests inside and outside the state are already flowing into next year's political campaigns. And the first of four Senate hearings last week underscored the special interest activity. Even antigambling lawmakers have bought the industry spin that new regulation could mean a consolidated industry. That would be a first.

Genting and Sands, the two big casino concerns that took center stage in the 2012 session, are now open to plans that might involve them buying up parimutuel licenses in exchange for the ability to open destination casinos. Parimutuels are looking for their own ways to expand offerings. And the timing is ripe. Florida's contract with the Seminole Indian Tribe, which gives the tribe exclusive rights to offer card games like blackjack in exchange for $1 billion in total payments, expires in 2015. (The tribe's exclusive right to slot machines outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties continues for 25 years.)

All this is set against a backdrop in which Florida has already expanded gambling through lax regulation. The most obvious case involved Internet cafes, which operated for years before lawmakers finally shut them down after a major operator in Jacksonville faced federal racketeering charges. That case ultimately tainted then-Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who had done public relations work for the company. But less noticed is how some parimutuels have been exploiting ambiguities in state law to expand their operations. And some Internet cafe owners are reopening their doors, claiming they reprogrammed their machines to comply with Florida law.

Florida has seen this dance time and again from an industry where the only clear winner is the house. The Senate study produced by Spectrum Gaming Group quietly points to the risks. In contrast to Genting's contentions in 2012 that its marketing would dramatically increase the number of international gamblers coming to the state, the study finds Floridians still would make up the overwhelming share of gamblers. Part of the reason state revenue would increase is that money residents previously spent on nongambling enterprises such as retail or restaurants would flow to gambling — which is more heavily taxed.

Lawmakers are right that gambling regulation needs a tune-up. But it's hard to trust that somehow, this time, Tallahassee will find the discipline to say no to promises of fast cash from a high-tax industry that preys on Floridians eager for a thrill and fast money (which rarely comes). The Senate's consultant outlined why it's not worth the gamble. Legislators need to listen.

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Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Updated: 10 hours ago

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18