Amid Florida’s economic recovery and the start of the 2012 Legislative Session where issues ranging from the budget, redistricting, creating private-sector jobs and lowering the cost of doing business for job creators should take center stage, focusing on the massive expansion of gambling has the potential to turn into a massive distraction, the Coalition Against the Bad Bet for Florida announced today.
A coalition of leading statewide business groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Florida Retail Federation, today announced a comprehensive campaign to defend Florida from this bad bet.
“Instead of betting Florida’s future on destination casinos and wasting valuable time on a risky mega-casino plan,we need to lower unemployment insurance rates, reduce workers’ compensation costs, close the Internet sales tax loophole, continue to improve education, and help small businesses grow,” said Allan Bense, chair of the Florida Chamber’s Task Force Against Gambling Expansion and a former Florida Speaker of the House. “Florida is headed in the right direction. Our state is growing again. We’re emerging from the recession on a strong, solid and sound path. Of course, the gambling giants want a piece of the action. Well, there’s no room at Florida’s table for destination casinos. “
The Coalition noted that Florida is on the right track and cited statistics showing Florida as one of the top three states for private-sector job creation, with the state’s lowest unemployment rate in 30 months, declining foreclosures and with positive population growth.
“Destination casino gambling needs Florida, but Florida does not need mega-casinos,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson. “Destination casinos are a bad bet for Florida. What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. We need to focus on securing Florida’s future through a framework that diversifies Florida’s economy with high-wage, high-skill jobs.”
Along with the Coalition, Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, numerous policymakers and major newspapers statewide are also opposed to the destination casino legislation.
The Coalition will conduct a public awareness campaign against destination casinos to defend Florida from mega-casinos that includes a multi-media effort similar to other efforts the Florida Chamber has led.
These efforts include a television advertisement, http://youtu.be/G5q8IfxUr6U, and a new website,www.BadBetforFlorida.com, which reveals why the plan to establish some of the world’s largest casinos in the state is a loser for Florida’s economy.
The website shows how bringing Las Vegas mega-casinos to Florida will:
- Cannibalize existing businesses,
- Hurt Florida employers, and
- Cost residents jobs.
When mega-casinos were introduced in Atlantic City, 40 percent of restaurants and approximately one-third of retail establishments shut down. Nevada, with all of its casinos, has become a national leader in unemployment, foreclosures, violent crime, divorce and personal bankruptcy.
“The casinos are in a slump in Nevada and in Atlantic City. They’re losing money, they’re in trouble and they’re looking to climb out of a hole by taking advantage of Florida’s strengths: Its people, its businesses and its brand. We can’t let it happen,” said Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association President Carol Dover. “We cannot let the pie-in-the-sky promises of destination casino supporters allow us to lose focus on the real issues that matter.”
The Florida Chamber’s Wilson noted that lawmakers have a full menu of issues important to private-sector job creators, including PIP reform, Citizens Insurance reform, workers’ comp reform, unemployment comp reform, bringing down the cost of living and creating a climate friendly for private sector job creation.
“Destination casinos are a bad idea that will not work in an economy like Florida’s. Innovation is going to drive Florida’s future economy – not gambling,” Wilson said. “Destination casinos are not part of Florida’s economic development plan. In fact, planting destination casinos in Florida will damage our state’s global brand, just as we’re making significant strides.“