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No Casinos responds to criticism it’s ‘misinformed’ about casino gambling

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The state’s anti-gambling expansion group is pushing back against comments that it’s “misinformed” about casino gambling not being a “meaningful attraction for Florida tourism.”

Steven Norton, a longtime gambling executive and consultant, linked to Nick Sortal‘s Friday column for the Miami Herald in Norton’s Monday email roundup of the gambling scene in the South.

“As I survey the scene nationwide, I think it’s fair to ask the question: Do we have enough casinos already? And, a related question: Do we have enough gambling already?” Sortal wrote.

Sortal later quotes No Casinos president John Sowinski: ““Most people live near a casino. So casinos are no longer a draw to attract tourists.”

In his own commentary, Norton points to Las Vegas: “It’s not just the gaming, but the entire experience… and when people vacation, they have more time to enjoy their favorite pastimes, than when at home. Plus you will find many potential visitors who will not vacation at a resort unless casino gaming is available.

“I understand Disney’s opposition to gaming, not wanting visitors to spend their money away from Disney World or Epcot, but their visitors also have gaming available, being close to America’s top grossing casino resort, the Seminole Hard Rock, down I-4, in Tampa,” Norton adds.

“The Orlando family resorts have to realize that many of their mid-week customers in the fall, winter and spring are in Orlando attending conventions and trade shows, and do not have their children in tow, so casino gaming is an important added attraction.”

Sowinski wasn’t available Monday, but Paul Seago, No Casinos’ executive director, pointed to a report commissioned by the Legislature in 2013—the same one Sowinski mentions in the Herald column—concluding that “even if destination casinos were built, 95 percent of the revenue would be derived from locals.”

Seago also points to a University of Nevada, Las Vegas study that he says “reviews how the attempt to re-brand Las Vegas as ‘family-friendly’ did not end well.”

“Even more than twenty years after the fact, the notion of ‘family Vegas’ stirs up a host of reactions,” the study says. “Some challenge the idea that such an era ever existed.”

The study goes on to quote a 2012 “Vegas Seven” article: “We proudly inform out-of-towners that we’ve been theme-park free for a decade, and that we’re back to the wholesome pursuits—booze, breasts, and blackjack—that we built our name on.”

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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