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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Poll: Voters want say in whether to expand casinos

“It is good public policy and smart politics to be against the expansion of gambling in Florida,” said No Casinos President John Sowinski in a statement.

He may have no cause for concern, however. When it comes to expanding gambling, the industry’s worst enemy has long been itself.

Gambling’s competing interests are deadlocked, which has stymied any significant change in Florida.

The latest effort, including a more-than-450 page rewrite of gambling-related statutes, stalled and collapsed this legislative session.

On the one hand, parimutuels – the horse and dog tracks – want to add slots and card games. But that could threaten the near-monopoly enjoyed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which runs Tampa’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, among other facilities.

Gov. Rick Scott still has not announced a new revenue-sharing deal with the tribe, worth billions to the state’s coffers.

At the same time, billion-dollar corporations want to build destination gambling resorts, to which many parimutuels are opposed, not to mention Disney and other family-friendly tourism interests.

State Sen. Garrett Richter, the Naples Republican who chairs his chamber’s gambling committee, last month told Tribune/Scripps that “there’s no consensus on which direction to go.”

“Without that,” he said, “it makes any issue a lot more challenging, especially the more people that have differing opinions.”

Among the poll’s other findings, 75 percent said they disagreed that more gambling in Florida would improve the state’s quality of life, and 63 percent said gambling-law loopholes potentially allowing expanded gambling need to be plugged.

The poll was conducted June 12-15 by Hill Research Consultants, a Republican-leaning polling firm that counts both former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, and retired U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, as former clients.

It used a sample of 604 likely voters for the 2014 election. The margin of error is 4 percent.

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