Stalemate on Gambling in Florida Continues – Only Politicians Win

Florida’s residents have been begging for expanding gambling ever since horse racing and jai-alai came to the state in the 1920′s. In 1930 there was an attempted assasination of the governor for his anti-gambling stance in the state. In 1931 the State Racing Commission was established and in 1935 Jai-alai and slot machines were legalized.

From cockfighting to dog racing, from bingo halls to slot machines, from sweepstakes to table games, gambling has continued to expand and flourish from decade to decade in Florida. As a result of all that growth the current state of Florida’s gambling scene is a hodgepodge of lobbyists representing so many varying and opposing interests that it is proving impossible to get any new gambling expansion agreed upon. This is leaving no one, other than lobbyists, who get paid by the groups they represent, and the lawmakers, who are constantly courted by the lobbyists to benefit.

Las Vegas Sands, a publicly traded company owned by Sheldon Adelson, the outspoken Republican supporter and considered by many as one of the current party leaders, has been lobbying to bring full casino resorts to Florida for nearly the past ten years. However, lobbyists for Disney are fighting hard to stop any expansion into central Florida, which is a destination the Sands would love to be located, amongst a few others.

But the Indian tribes like the Seminoles don’t want the Sands to develop for they would surely take away much of their profits they have seen since they have negotiated a deal with a former governor to monopolize the table gaming market in exchange for high tax rates. And the smaller tribes in the tri-county area have lobbyists that also don’t want the Sands to enter the market, while simultaneously they fight to get more games to offer to their visitors so they can compete better with the Seminole casinos.

Throw in the growing demand for online poker from the state’s hundreds of thousands of college aged voters, which all casinos don’t want, unless of course they can be gauranteed the licenses, and you have yourself one of the most beautiful stalemates in the country.

The lawmakers benefit by swearing to their prospective voters to give them what they want next time around. They then get elected, put up a show of support for the cause, perhaps even introduce a bill to back it, knowing it will get shot down by many of the other lawmakers who are being lobbied by groups with opposing points of view.

We are just scratching the surface of the current state of Florida’s gambling economy, but this pattern has been repeating itself for the past five years and there are no signs of change. Just more hope, anticipation, ultimate dejection, and unfortunately, never any progress.

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