How many of you know, casinos are illegal in Florida. And outside of the dozen casinos that we have in place and running – and the dog track, race track, poker room, pediments jai alai, cruises to nowhere and managed by the lottery government, we are very serious in this state our opposition to big-game time. Now, however, there’s a bill in Tallahassee that calls for massive casino resorts in five different parts of the state.
It is a lie of a bill of 82 pages backed by Republicans in positions of power. But if I were to summarize all these pages in a single sentence, said: “Of course, casinos are illegal … except for some places … in every corner of the state … where it really, really big.” But before politicians push all-in, I thought I’d break this debate down into bite-size bits to help you see what’s at stake. And just for fun, I thought I’d sprinkle in some pieces of well-worn gambling advice for all you bettors out there.
The proposal: The basic idea is to welcome “destination resorts” to Florida. “Destination resort” basically means really big with at least 500,000 square feet of convention and meeting space. Senate Bill 1708 would allow one of these really big casinos in each of five regions around Florida. Orlando’s region goes east to Volusia and up north past Jacksonville. But casinos could only go where local voters invite them — which would still rule out much of Florida, if past votes are any indication anyway.
Poker tip No. 1: If you look around the poker table and can’t spot the sucker, you’re it.
The stakes: They’re massive — both for taxpayers and the casino execs. Senate sponsor Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, said Thursday that the plan could easily provide more than a billion dollars a year in tax revenues, in addition to tens of thousands of jobs. But whatever the public would get, the casino companies would get tons more. Las Vegas Sands is already boasting of plans to invest $2 billion in a single resort in Miami.
Poker tip No. 2: Looking to play a machine where you’re guaranteed not to lose? Try the ones near the cashier … the ones marked “Bill Changer.”
The flip flop: You might be wondering why companies like Sands would be talking so confidently about coming to Florida. After all, it was only a few months ago that then-candidate Rick Scott promised GOP primary voters that he would not allow a gambling expansion. Not “of any kind,” Scott vowed to the Florida Baptist Witness. But then Scott got elected — and needed the 700,000 new jobs he promised more than he needed conservative Christian voters. So, two weeks after he was elected governor, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Scott flew to Vegas to meet with the CEO of the Sands corporation and later said he’d look at gambling “going forward.” After he took heat for that, Scott said he’d “not taken any position.”
Poker tip No. 3: If you’re ever in a casino during an earthquake, run for the keno lounge … nothing ever gets hit there.
The hypocrisy: One of the bigger scams in Florida politics is the way some Republican politicians claim to oppose gambling — even as they suck up gambling money like piglets on a swollen momma sow for their own campaigns. A few years ago, the Sentinel actually counted each and every donation to the Republican Party of Florida and found that nearly one out of every five dollars came from casinos and gambling interests. And the current bills are being championed by Republicans like Jones in the Senate and Erik Fresen of Miami in the House.
Poker tip No. 4: Do not gamble the rent, or you’ll end up sleeping on a park bench.
What is the point: the community, who do not want to gamble should not force. But the sites that should have this option. Personally, I enjoyed visiting the casinos – but I do not want one in my backyard. If I did, I would have moved to Las Vegas. Ultimately, a clear quality of life, when casino-cons come to town. That’s why legislators should go slowly. They should be well thought through discussion, that we really wanted to play – and if we do not. And then we should stick to it. Otherwise, the current policy poses as gambling is prohibited, even if more creeps across the state.
Final Poker tip: Luck never gives. He only gives.