Floridians want more competition for gambling, says SSN poll

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A majority of Floridians want more competition for gambling licenses beyond the current system of “exclusivity” with the Seminole Tribe, according to a new survey.

In a Voter Survey Service study, commissioned by Sunshine State News, 56 percent of respondents want other establishments to compete for gambling licenses like what the Seminole Tribe provides, including card games such as blackjack and poker. Forty percent believe the Tribe’s exclusive rights to offer Las Vegas-style gambling is sufficient.

Of all the regions in polled, only voters in the Panhandle and Northwest Florida prefer to keep the status quo with the Seminole Tribe — by a 5-point margin of 50 to 45 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott is now in the process of renegotiating the Seminole Compact, a part of which will expire in mid-2015, and extend terms of allowing the Tribe to provide – without competition — card games outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Under the current deal, the Tribe pays the state up to $1 billion over five years for the exclusive rights to run casinos throughout the state.

“A 16-point difference shows a fairly strong support for gaming opportunity in Florida,” Voter Survey Service head James Lee told reporter Nancy Smith of SSN. “To me, the most surprising result is that Republicans want to expand beyond tribal gaming by nearly 2:1. It’s usually the Democrats who come out strong for gambling and the Republicans who try to block it.”

Nearly 63 percent of Republicans polled favor more competition in gambling while 35 percent oppose. Democrats are nearly split, with 48 percent saying more competition is beneficial, and 45 percent do not. Independents were also supportive of the idea; 57 percent want competition, and 39 percent do not.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.