It’s un-American to deny Floridians the right to buy Lottery tickets at the gas pump

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Economics textbooks talk about “rent seeking” — the practice of obtaining benefits through the political arena. Typically, “rents” are gained via subsidies or tariffs. Today in Florida, though, the best example of rent seeking is via regulation. As in, regulations that hamper an industry’s competitors to increase their own share of wealth. Much of the time these efforts are obvious to political observers, but sometimes, motivations seem perplexingly unclear. 

With this in mind, take a look at SB 1130 and HB 547. 

These bills, sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter and Rep. Halsey Beshears, would permit the Department of Lottery to authorize “point of sale” terminals — such as at gas pumps — for the sale of lotto tickets. The program would have strict limits and the model has been vetted and approved by the National Association of Problem Gambling. Most importantly, these point of sales terminals would boost considerable revenues for Florida’s educational system without an expenditure of taxpayer dollars. 

How so, you ask? 

Because offering the sale of Florida Lotto tickets at the pump diversifies the player base by reaching a higher-end, banked non-traditional occasional lottery consumer. Translation: soccer moms. 

The terminals would require age verification through driver license swipes, and would incorporate daily play limits to promote responsible play. 

The concept has been a big hit, and a big revenue generator, in Minnesota, and Missouri is in the process of implementing it too. 

But Minnesota and Missouri don’t have a Seminole Tribe of Florida standing in the way. Protecting its gaming turf. Throwing up smoke screens that wrongly suggest point-of-sale lotto transactions would violate the Seminole Compact and cost the state some $172 million in revenue sharing. The Seminole Tribe is opposing Richter and Beshears’ bills… which given the nature and timing of the measure is a curious thing. 

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has a relative monopoly on gaming in Florida. But their turf is vulnerable due to a far greater threat than gas pump lotto sales. With the Compact set to expire in mid-2015 and destination resorts, such as Genting, licking their lips for a chance to swoop in, why would the Seminole Tribe expend political capital to kill smaller potatoes lotto legislation that would barely touch it?

If this is “rent seeking”, it is a less rational variety. 

It would seem that getting on the side of Florida’s Lottery would be a far better strategy than alienating the only gaming interest in the state that has no interest in running tables or slots. 

So much for textbook terminology. 

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.