Expect no new revelations in final gambling report, authors tell Florida Senate

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File it under “spoiler alert.”

According to James Rosica in the Tampa Tribune, there will be no surprises in the final Spectrum Gaming Group report — saying expanding gambling will only have a “modest” effect on the state. The basic conclusions will not change when the final draft is presented to the Legislature Nov. 1, after a 30-day delay.

The report’s authors told the Senate Gaming Committee this week that the final draft would not say anything new; expanded gambling will only have a “mildly positive impact.”

The Tribune reports that in a best-case scenario, where 23 of the 67 Florida counties have legalized gambling beyond the Lottery, almost every adult in the state will be within two hours of a casino. Even then, the report says, “introduction of casinos, whether standalone destination resorts, or addition of slot machines at existing pari-mutuels, will lead to modest economic benefits.”

That extreme, with six destination casinos throughout the state, as well as slots and table games at all pari-mutuel betting sites, could generate as much as $5.4 billion yearly.

While some legislators suggest raising gambling taxes — from the current 35 percent — Spectrum warns it could also have a chilling effect. High gambling taxes might prevent casinos from moving to the state. For example, New Jersey taxes gross revenues from casinos at only 8 percent.

Spectrum’s lackluster figures are based in part on losing Seminole Tribe gambling revenue, around $233 annually. Since 2010, they brought in more than $1 billion. Loss of exclusivity would result in the Seminoles cutting off payments.

One alternative is expanding what the Tribe provides, such as allowing roulette and craps. It could lead to higher revenues without building new casinos, said Miami Democrat Sen. Gwen Margolis.

“If you gave them the opportunity to do a few more things in their casinos,” Margolis added, “we wouldn’t have to sit around here and worry about (new) casinos.”

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.