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No Casinos: Seminole Compact should limit, not expand gambling

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The day after Gov. Rick Scott announced a new gaming compact deal with the Seminole Tribe, No Casinos head John Sowinski doubled down on his group’s opposition to gambling expansion of any kind.

The Seminole Gaming Compact, originally brokered by Gov. Charlie Crist, gave the tribe exclusive rights to banked card games, such as blackjack, in exchange for payments to the state. The exclusivity deal expired and Scott’s new compact, which requires approval from the Florida Legislature, would open the door for a non-tribal casino in Miami-Dade County and carve a pathway for South Florida racinos to add slot machines and blackjack tables.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Sowinsky said the new deal flies in the face of the original compact’s intent: to raise state revenue while reducing gambling. And he’s absolutely right.

The new compact and other proposed concessions to the gaming industry, such as decoupling, only serve to prop up failing pari-mutuels. The trainers who brought up Triple Crown winner American Pharoah recently came out against decoupling, saying the practice would “start a slow erosion toward the ruin of horseracing in Florida.”

Track owners, of course, say allowing them to run fewer races to operate slots and card rooms would bring in more revenue and be better for racing animals. Allowing them to flounder would bring about the same result given that racinos already pay too little in taxes to fund their own regulation.

Sowinski’s solution? Use the compact revenue to shrink the gambling industry by buying back pari-mutuel licenses.

“Our buy-back plan allows willing pari-mutuel owners to redevelop their property in ways that produce more tax revenue and create more stable jobs,” he said. “It also allows for humane retirement of greyhounds and job training for those transitioning to more stable industries. In effect, we use gambling revenue to reduce gambling.”

More state revenue, less gambling and better jobs. A win-win is rare in the gambling world, but if ever there was one, Sowinsky and No Casinos have found it.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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