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No Casinos blasts Chamber poll on Seminole Compact

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The head of an anti-gambling expansion group says a new Florida Chamber of Commerce poll “paints an inaccurate picture of public opinion” regarding a new proposed blackjack agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

On Thursday, the Chamber released poll results showing three-quarters of voters say blackjack “has been good for the state” and that lawmakers should approve a new deal that lets the Tribe continue to offer blackjack in return for a $3 billion cut over seven years.

Later in the day, No Casinos President John Sowinski said that “missing from the survey was any hint of how the (Seminole) Compact allows for the massive expansion of gambling throughout Florida — beyond tribal property, including new nontribal casinos in Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade County.”

In 2010, the tribe agreed to pay at least $1 billion into the state treasury for rights to offer the card game at seven of its casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. That provision expired this past summer, requiring a new agreement.

The 63-page document negotiated by Gov. Rick Scott would let the Seminoles add roulette and craps tables, as well as permit the Legislature to OK slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and allow blackjack at some South Florida racetracks “with some limitations.”

“The poll did not ask voters how they felt about expansions of gambling that the compact would allow throughout Florida, including introduction of slot machines outside of tribal properties,” Sowinski wrote in an email. “But what the poll did find is that 72 percent of Floridians don’t want gambling expanded, which is exactly what the proposed compact does.”

He also questioned the bias of the pollster, Public Opinion Strategies, saying that company also “is the pollster of record for the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” citing “multiple media reports.”

Lawmakers are expected to begin their consideration of the revised Seminole Compact during the 2016 Legislative Session that begins Tuesday.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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