Majority of Floridians favor building “destination casinos” statewide, says survey paid for by Las Vegas Sands

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Increasing gambling in Florida by developing a number of “destination casinos” statewide is a strongly popular idea with registered voters, according to a recent study sponsored by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.

At the same time, internet gambling is becoming increasingly unpopular.

Washington D.C.-based Tarrance Group polled 601 likely Florida voters from  found nearly two-thirds of respondents — 61 percent — support the Legislature approval of several “high-quality destination resort casinos” as a way to create new jobs and stimulate the economy.

Slightly more respondents (67 percent) take an overwhelmingly negative view of Internet gambling.

“The opinion of Florida voters is clear. When it comes to destination resorts, the answer is an overwhelming yes. But voters know what they like and what they don’t, and they overwhelmingly reject Internet gaming,” said Dave Sackett, founding partner of The Tarrance Group.

“It would be reasonable to conclude that Florida voters recognize the economic benefits of destination resorts, but also see the pitfalls posed by unregulated online gambling,” added Sackett.

Among the key findings in the survey:

  • A majority of Floridians, nearly three in five, wants to expand gambling, while only 35 percent of Florida voters oppose expansion; only 3 percent are undecided.
  • At 63 percent, respondents would rather have a limited number of destination resort casinos around the state. That number is more than 10 points higher (53 percent) than those wanting to bring “full” gaming to existing horse track, dog track, and jai alai facilities.
  • These differences are consistent among voters in almost every part of the state, with the exception of the Miami metro area, where the notion of two proposals are even.

Nearly every type of gambling currently allowed in Florida is popular with voters, including the state lottery, horse racing and Indian casinos with Las Vegas-style games. Other games, like Jai Alai, dog racing and poker rooms, although viewed slightly less favorably, are still ranked more positively than negatively.

Most Floridians favor giving the public a voice in building destination casinos. Sixty-eight percent of respondents would be more likely to “favor” development of a limited number of destination resort casinos that include meeting spaces, shopping and other entertainment venues, especially if they the final decision rests with voters.

Having a referendum in each county where a vote would be required for casinos is also popular.

The study also found that supporting gambling expansion could also be a shrewd political move. Fifty –four percent of respondents are more likely to vote for a state legislator who favors allowing a referendum on new casinos.

When it comes to both Internet gambling and Internet poker, Florida voters have significantly negative opinions of both, with no statistical distinction between the two. Around 65 percent of voters opposed both, and for many that hostility is strong — 54 percent expressed “strongly negative” views of legalized internet gambling.

A strong 55 percent of respondents agreed that internet gambling is “very different” from other types of gambling that already exist.

Only 35 percent agree with the idea that internet gambling is “no different” from other forms of gambling; four percent do not agree with either perspective, and seven percent is undecided.

Tarrance Group conducted the study October 20-22, with a 4.1 percent margin of error in 95 out of 100 cases.

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.