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Florida restaurant and hotel lobby blasts Dana Young’s new gaming bill

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The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association — a group with outsized importance in our state’s tourism-centric economy — issued a statement Tuesday excoriating the proposal released yesterday by House Majority Leader Dana Young.

“We will continue to fight this legislation, along with any other measure that seeks to expand gambling under the false pretense that it will bring additional jobs, attract more tourists, and increase Florida’s tax base,” said FRLA President and CEO Carol Dover. “Florida currently enjoys record number of tourists, and provides a strong [return on investment] on tourism and hospitality dollars. We are confident legislators won’t be fooled by casino operators’ false arguments.”

Dover wasn’t the only industry critic of the new legislative package. A pair of stakeholders took turns teeing off on the bill, portraying dark ramifications were it to become law.

“Florida’s tourism industry is predicated on pristine beaches, family-friendly attractions, and world-class and unique hotels and restaurants,” said 2015 FRLA President Andrew Reiss, who also owns Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar and Andrew’s 228 in Tallahassee. “To believe for one moment that our state needs to establish so-called destination resorts as an economic development measure, when other states have seen firsthand the harm done to local economies, is a cautionary tale that Floridians would be wise to adhere.”

The advocates invoked — like anti-gambling group No Casinos did in a statement yesterday — the specter of Atlantic City NJ. The FRLA quotes former CEO of the Beacon Council Frank Nero who wrote in January:

“What we see in Atlantic City is the full life cycle of the impact of casinos on a local economy. We see the casinos cannibalizing local restaurants and retail establishments until they are out of business. We see billions of dollars flowing to out-of-state casino companies with a pittance remaining in the local economy. We see efforts to diversify local economies thwarted.”

State Rep. Young was not immediately available to comment.

[Update, 3/4/2015: an earlier version of this article named Frank Nero as the CEO of the Beacon Council. Mr. Nero is in fact a former CEO. The Council does take any position on the issue of gaming expansion. We regret the error.]

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Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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