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Florida Casino Expansion Faces Many Opponents

Disney is Lobbying Against Legislative Proposals

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The Palm Beach Post reported Thursday that a pair of top GOP officials in Florida — Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — have decided to oppose legislative measures that would allow three commercial Las Vegas-style resort casinos in South Florida.

Anti-gambling expansion sentiment in the state has grown since October, when lawmakers introduced separate proposals in both the House and Senate.

Bondi and Putnam are reportedly joined by the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Disney-backed No Casinos Inc. and the Florida Chamber of Commerce in an effort to kill the plans.

Republican Governor Rick Scott has yet to take a definitive stance, but reportedly has said that he doesn’t want South Florida’s economy to rely on casinos.

Gambling expansion would end a Seminole Tribe monopoly on immensely profitable table games such as black jack and baccarat. Under a state compact, the Tribe operates seven casinos across the state, including the Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Tribe wouldn’t continue to give the state millions from its South Florida casinos if lawmakers allow so-called “destination resorts.” The chairman of the Seminole Tribe reportedly will oppose such legislation.

Florida’s racinos with slot machines are also in opposition, according to the New York Times. These business currently pay a 35-percent tax rate, while new legislation would require destination resorts to fork over just 10 percent.

Pushing gambling proposals through the state legislature hasn’t historically been easy, as Florida lawmakers rejected a similar bill last year. The state also nixed an online poker bill in April.

After a hard-fought battle, Florida underwent substantial changes to its offering of poker in June of last year, lifting a buy-in cap at the tables and expanding operating hours for card rooms.

Brick-and-mortar gambling expansion will be discussed during a new legislative session starting in January.

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus