Conservatives urging Gov. Scott to veto $400K gambling study

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Gov. Rick Scott should reject a $400,000 gambling study in the 2011-2012 state budget and restore funding cuts to programs that help those harmed by gambling, Florida Baptist Convention legislative consultant Bill Bunkley urged in a May 19 letter, reports James Smith of the Florida Baptist Witness.

Scott has until June 1 to deal with the $70 billion budget passed by the Legislature on the final day of its 60-day session. Recent reports indicate the governor expects to find further savings by vetoing some spending items.

A budget provision provides $400,000 for a ?omprehensive gaming study of the revenues derived, the expenses incurred, and the potential benefit for Florida from destination resorts and horse racing.?

The study, included in the budget at the request of the Senate, is to be done by an ?ndependent consultant?to be approved by the Legislative Budget Commission.

Multiple bills advancing the idea of ?estination?gambling resorts were introduced in the 2011 session, although none advanced beyond one Senate committee.

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, sponsor of one of the bills, told theMiami Herald he hopes the study ?ill result in the impetus to pass?the legislation next year.

The gambling study ?ysteriously appeared?in the final days of the session and was not ?etted?by either chamber, Bunkley said in the letter he released toFlorida Baptist Witness.

?n this critical and tight budgetary year when many fellow Floridians are unemployed and struggling to provide some of the basics of life, it is not the time to promote and subsidize the rich, deep-pocketed interests of the large-scale, Las Vegas casino enterprises or the horse racing industry,?Bunkley wrote.

The study will not be ?alanced,?he added, because it fails to require exploration of the ?uge social costs the state will without a doubt?incur due to expanded gambling.

If there is to be a potentially pro-gambling study, it should be underwritten by the gambling industry, not taxpayers, Bunkley said.

Savings resulting from vetoing the gambling study should be transferred to the ?ompulsive and Addictive Gambling Prevention Contract,?which was cut by $485,300 in the budget, ?lso without public input,?Bunkley said.

?t would seem to me that in light of the recently expanded Seminole Indian gambling, more expensive Florida Lottery games, Miami-Dade and Broward counties casino gambling and now literally hundreds of what I believe are illegal ?nternet caf?sites, why would we cut funds to the lead agency appointed to address problem gambling?he asked, especially ?hile taxpayers?fund a study for more gambling.

?his is the wrong signal,?he said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.