Last week, the Senate Gaming Committee workshopped a major casino gaming bill, SPB 7052. The 453-page proposal would overhaul Florida’s gambling laws by authorizing two “destination resort” casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade; establishing a Department of Gaming Control with 5 Governor-appointed members (usurping the authority of the Dept. of Business & Professional Regulation and further injecting politics into casino oversight); and putting a constitutional amendment codifying these and other changes to gaming on the ballot this November.
Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-27) raised an interesting question about the amendment aspect, asking why the “business-friendly” Republicans who run the Gaming Committee and the legislature generally would support a constitutional change to ‘limit commerce,’ i.e. allow this expansion of gambling but limit further ones. If it’s such a good thing now, why won’t it be in the future?
He made a sound point and was gesturing towards their dubious motives — clearly Republicans want to neutralize the increased Democratic turnout this year that will stem from the environmental conservation and medical marijuana ballot initiatives by turning out their own voters to support the gaming amendment. But his phrasing omitted a crucial point about this issue: gambling isn’t commerce.
Gambling is not a part of the productive economy. The only risk involved is for the patrons; the House, as they say, never loses but millions of people with gambling addictions do. Not only is it not a form of business or commerce in the traditional sense, it is essentially a mechanism for transferring wealth from poor, working-, and middle-class to the obscenely monied interests that own and control the gambling industry. As for the decent jobs touted by gambling boosters — a study of state-sanctioned gambling in Mississippi found that half of casino workers reported present or past problems with gambling addiction.
Friend of TFS, Ross Hancock stated the case against gambling in Florida succinctly:
Casinos provide perhaps the absolute least imaginative economic development option imaginable. Florida sent people to the Moon. We can do better than this and have for years done better than this.
It is difficult to find a single spot in the United States where Casino Gambling has helped a the quality of life in a community.
Gambling only works if no one else is doing it. That was the Vegas and Atlantic City model. Now casinos are very common within driving distance of most Americans.
Casino Gambling often leads to a huge financial and cultural distortion of the community’s fabric and politics.
Florida has cultivated a tourism industry based upon clean beautiful beaches, a tropical and sub-tropical climate, unique environmental features, family friendly entertainment parks and vibrant cosmopolitan metropolitan areas. Gambling threatens all of this.
We at TFS have decided to make our position against gambling public because it’s important that progressives and Democrats — particularly those in elective office — understand that there is serious opposition to casino-style gaming in the Democratic base. Not long ago, it was common sense in both parties. The fact that the Republican majority has even put it on the table is a sign of their arrogance. Some Dems reportedly seem open to the idea amid industry campaign contributions and the feeling that it might pass with or without their support. Our message to them, to quote Robinson Jeffers — Yours is not theirs.