Supporter, Opponents Align in Florida

Proponents of expanded gambling recently launched an initiative called "Best for Florida," which hopes to educate the public about the benefits of destination casino resorts in South Florida. The anti-gaming group NoCasinos kicked of their campaign with the documentary "Pushing Luck." Former legislator Tom Feeney (l.) is leading the pro-casino movement.

Proponents and opponents of legalized gambling in Florida are taking sides in advance of the upcoming legislative session in March. Advocates recently launched a major multi-media marketing effort called “Best for Florida.” The opposition, NoCasinos, kicked off their campaign with showings of the documentary Pushing Luck.

Tom Feeney, president and chief executive officer of Associated Industries of Florida said, “Florida has an historic opportunity to create jobs and locate a huge magnet for convention and trade shows in our state. The integrated resort model is proven to spur economic activity and create jobs by increasing tourism and convention and exhibition business visitors. With convention cancellations due to lack of adequate venues, this is exactly the kind of resource needed in South Florida.”

Feeney added, “These high-end, luxury properties offer lavish amenities and serve as a magnet attracting people from all over the world to visit Florida. With this proposed expansion comes the creation of more jobs, a greater boost to the economy and increased promotion of trade shows and conventions.”

AIF has created a website to help Floridians learn about integrated resorts and gaming issues state lawmakers will consider this session. The website also explains how gaming has grown through the exploitation of legal loopholes, making Florida one of the most active gaming states in the U.S. with gambling cruises, dog racing, horseracing, lottery, card rooms, slot machines and Indian casinos.

Advocating against expanded gambling is the anti-gaming group NoCasinos, which recently unveiled “Pushing Luck,” a documentary on the negative impact of Atlantic City’s decision to allow casino gambling in the 1970s. The film features political and business leaders including state Rep. Dennis Baxley and Mark Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The documentary prominently features Governor Reubin Askew who opposed bringing casino gambling to Florida during the 1970s.

In addition to the Florida Chamber, NoCasinos includes the Florida Attractions Association, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and Florida Retail Federation.

Also in Florida, Dania Jai-Alai, which was acquired by an Argentine investment group in May, will open to the public January 28 with 550 slots, 11 poker tables, a bar and deli area. It will be South Florida’s eighth pari-mutuel to have slots. Marketing Director Bernie Gamboa said the facility will raise the number of employees from 135 to 320.

The owners have invested $20 million in the facility, Gamboa said. He added they hope to offer 1,400 slots in a separate facility on the site by winter 2015. The fronton still offers jai-alai matches every night except Monday.