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Anti-gambling group’s poll shows overwhelming concern about gambling in Florida

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A new poll commissioned and released Thursday by the anti-gambling group No Casinos finds overwhelming majorities of Florida voters expressing strong reservations about the expansion of gaming and the politicians who would support such expansion.

The poll, conducted by Hill Research Associates, found 75 percent of the voters surveyed did not think more gambling would improve quality of life, and 83 percent believe voters, not politicians, should make decisions about gambling policy.

The survey also sent a stern warning to state lawmakers: 72 percent of those surveyed said they would be less likely to support a political candidate who votes to expand gambling without first putting the measure to a statewide referendum.

No Casinos has campaigned for decades to slow, stop or reverse any increase in gambling in Florida. The poll was conducted June 23-27, reaching 670 active voters who had voted in at least one election between 2010 and 2015. Hill Research claimed a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

No Casinos said Thursday the poll results are being sent to all legislative candidates, along with a pledge statement that they will oppose the expansion of gambling in Florida.

“The will of the voters could not be clearer,’’ John Sowinski, president of Orlando-based No Casinos stated in a news release. “Regardless of political party, Floridians overwhelmingly want a say in whether gambling will be expanded in our state. They understand the negative social and economic consequences. This is why the gaming industry continually tries to circumvent public opinion, hiring lobbyists and lawyers to push their agenda of more and bigger casinos in the Legislature and courts. Elected officials should take heed — it is not only good public policy, it is also smart politics to reject expanding gambling in Florida.”

Details of the poll results include:

— 69 percent of the surveyed voters said they would support a referendum requiring voter approval of all gambling expansion decisions. Such a referendum, the Voter Control of Gambling Amendment, currently is before the Florida Supreme Court for placement on the 2018 ballot. Only 21 percent said they would oppose it.

— 83 percent stated that they believe Florida voters should decide gambling policy in Florida. By comparison, 7 percent believe the Florida Legislature should decide, 3 percent think the governor should choose, and 3 percent believe the courts should decide.

— 72 percent indicated they would be less likely to support a political candidate who supports expanded gambling in Florida without a statewide vote. By contrast, 18 percent said they are more likely to support such a candidate, and 6 percent said it makes no difference.

— 75 percent disagreed that more gambling in their city would improve the quality of life for them or their families, while 18 percent said they believe more gambling improves their quality of life.

No Casinos is asking candidates to sign the pledge and return it by Aug. 5.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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