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Gambling a bad bet for Florida

Gambling in Florida

Gambling's a bad bet for Florida

The gambling industry has been chomping at the bit for decades to get a foothold in the state of Florida. Why am I not surprised that our state legislators, many of whom have received financial contributions from that same industry, are so eager to use the downturn in the economy to expand gambling in Florida?

Before taking the plunge, however, Floridians need to remind their legislators — and their governor — why gambling is not the answer to our economic woes.

According to data gathered by the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling: Most casinos attract 80 percent or more of their market from a 35- to 50-mile radius. Casinos absorb existing entertainment, restaurant and hotel business, and deplete dollars available to other retail businesses. This "cannibalization" of existing businesses has been demonstrated time and time again where casinos have been introduced, leading to a loss of jobs, retail sales and property tax contributions.

Gambling also leads to an increase in bankruptcy filings. Personal bankruptcy rates are 100 percent higher in counties with casinos than in counties without casinos.

Another myth that is perpetuated by the progambling lobby is that it does not cause in increase in crime. The fact is that three years after the introduction of casinos in Atlantic City, the crime rate tripled. Per capita crime there jumped from 50th in the nation to first. A comparison of crime rates for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft reveals that Nevada — gambling capital of the nation — is the most dangerous place to live in the United States.

And sadly, a study of addicted gamblers revealed that between 20 to 30 percent of them had attempted suicide. The state of Nevada holds the dubious distinction of having had the highest number of suicides in the nation for 10 of the past 12 years.

These sobering facts should cause our state legislators and honorable governor to take pause and rethink their plans for an expansion of gambling in Florida. There is no quick fix to our current economic mess. Trying to gamble our way out of a recession is definitely a bad bet.

Janet Skinner, Palm Harbor

Fort De Soto fees on table | March 27, story

Willing to pay a user fee

As much as we would like to see our parks and preserves remain free, the time has come to face the truth. Floridians voted for Amendment 1, which increased homestead exemptions and other real estate tax breaks, and home values have dropped over the past few years. These events dramatically decreased the amount of money Pinellas County has to spend. Without user fees, the county may have to close facilities, reduce staff and cut programs. User fees that stay in the park system could offset the costs of running the parks and preserves, and we could continue to enjoy these jewels of Pinellas County. I would much rather pay a fee for use than see these beautiful parks and preserves closed.

Barbara Howard, Gulfport

Fort De Soto fees on table | March 27, story

Keep nature free of charge

In tough economic times, the public should not have to pay extra for the simple pleasure of outdoor spaces like Fort De Soto.

More than ever, our community needs recreation and entertainment options that don't pinch the wallet. Beautiful places like Fort De Soto, including its dog beach, give the public a chance to escape when we need it most.

An economic downturn is all the more reason not to start charging for "admission" into nature. We already fund the park through taxes, and there's a toll booth right at the entrance.

Maybe an out-of-state vehicle fee is an option, but making county residents pay is clearly unfair. Local officials need to stand up for their community — make Fort De Soto more accessible, not less.

Michel Fougeres, St. Petersburg

Fort De Soto fees on table | March 27, story

Call it an impact fee

I am firm believer in tolls and entry fees. The money benefits all of us whether we use the roads and parks or not. The county should call it what it is: an environmental impact fee. If that term was posted at toll booths and park entrances, people would not feel like they were being forced to pay. When the fee is paid, the county or state should hand out a donation form along with other information about the park. Let consumers know where their money goes and they will be happy to pay.

Kevin Scott Hughes, St. Petersburg

Jobless need the help | March 27, editorial

Don't turn down funds

If state Republicans were to spend an additional $71 million in state funds, Florida would quickly become eligible to receive $1.2 billion in federal stimulus payments. Economists point out that every dollar in unemployment benefits generates a ripple effect, providing at least $2.15 in economic activity. Using this relationship, approximately $2.7 billion in Florida's economic activity is at risk of being lost.

With Florida's unemployment rate reaching 9.4 percent, at least a quarter-million eligible workers can expect their poverty-level unemployment benefits to evaporate this year. With a dismal economy and businesses failing every day, it's hard to believe that expanding unemployment benefits has escaped state legislative leaders.

On this issue alone, that's about 1 in 10 eligible workers and, now, unemployed Florida voters who will not be likely to send Republicans back to Tallahassee. As the business leadership will quickly notice, this is a major mistake by Republicans.

It's hard to believe that for the relatively small campaign and travel funds lobbyists provide Republicans, Florida will be left to suffer this major business loss. I can only conclude that our elected Republicans are hypnotized by the lobbyists' chant, "Look deeply into our campaign contributions."

Stuart Berney, Tampa

Little guy loses either way

I used to be totally against socialism and procapitalism, but with all the recent events I'm not so sure it makes any difference to the average man. With socialism you have a lot more politicians that the average man must support. With capitalism you have fewer politicians to support, but the greedy and crooked CEOs that the average people end up supporting make up the difference. It therefore seems the average man loses either way.

Ed Raciborski, Tampa

Taking part in the fight against campaign abuses | March 25, letter from Sen. Charlie Justice

Keep us informed

I would like your newspaper to do a favor for the people of Florida. If the bills that Sen. Charlie Justice speaks of are brought to the floor for a vote, please print a list of the Florida legislators who vote for, against or abstain. If the bills are never brought to the floor, then please print a list of the committees that rejected them, the committee members' names and their votes.

That way, we voters can use this to help us contact them to tell our position and to use the results to decide our vote in the next election.

Paul J. Sakson, Hernando

Gambling a bad bet for Florida 03/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 30, 2009 6:35pm]
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