Florida’s Senate Gaming Committee held its first public workshop recently to hear local perspectives about the future of gambling in the state as well as the potential social and economic impact expanded gaming would have on South Florida.
Early last year, state lawmakers shot down a bill to allow major casinos in South Florida. But now they’re reconsidering that decision, and possibly changing other state laws on gambling --- and that has plenty of people concerned.
“We believe it is a cannibalization of all good industries, it swallows up the arts scene, impacts social and community values, and brings lawlessness and more crime,” said Dana Boyte, an activist with the No Casinos Organization.
She was among the nearly two hundred people who showed up to the Gaming Committee’s public meeting at Broward College in Coconut Creek on Oct. 23.
“We want to educate our people here in the state of Florida…now you’re bringing in more casinos with lower-paying jobs? We’ve been fighting to get high-paying jobs in the state!” Boyte said.
A study presented to the committee this month found that expanded gambling would have minimal economic effects. Researchers from the consulting firm Spectrum Gaming Group said this is because Florida is already saturated with gambling.
Carol Bowen is in favor of expanding gaming. She represents the Florida East Coast Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors:
“A number of our members are engaged in this industry, on the building, the renovating,” said Bowen. “The jobs that they get through this process are good, quality, high-paying jobs. They support small businesses, and they help support one of the biggest industries in Florida which, when it’s doing well, Florida’s doing well.”
The Senate Committee has scheduled three more workshops across the state - in Lakeland, Pensacola and Jacksonville.