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Florida Governor Denies Seeking Gambling Expansion

7 January 2011 by admin

Governor_Scott_4_t607As we discussed here on Suite, there are some whispers that Florida could become the major gambling attraction of the southeast United States. Currently, there are no full-scale Vegas-style casinos allowed on Florida land and casinos are only allowed on tribal land, but there are plans by some lawmakers to add casino resorts to Miami. New Governor Rick Scott said he may consider that option. Or maybe he didn’t.

Governor Scott has been on the job less than a week, but there is already a minor controversy regarding his position on gambling expansion in the Sunshine State. Yesterday, the Miami Herald quoted him as saying that he will look at the possibility of expanding gambling in the state. Today, during a brief interview on the new Disney Dream cruise ship, he denied that claim, saying that he’s “not looking at gaming.”

disney-kingdomDid Scott have a change of heart or was he playing to the crowd, as politicians often do? It’s worth noting that he was in the company of several Disney executives. Disney is the largest and most influential business in the state of Florida, employing a large portion of central-Florida residents. They are also vehemently opposed to gambling, feeling that it is contrary to their family-friendly image, which they want to encompass the whole state.

Though he says he doesn’t support expansion, Scott also says he isn’t against the current status of gambling in the state. He noted that Florida currently allows tribal casinos that carry slots and blackjack and various pari-mutuels, such as horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons. In Broward and Miami-Dade counties, those pari-mutuels are allowed to also have slot machines, while elsewhere they can have poker rooms.

Governor Scott said “I’m fine with what they are doing” but he does not want to “make any changes.” At this point, it’s hard to know what to make of Scott. I like his fiscal conservativism and respect that he is declining his governor’s salary of $130,273 (only receiving $0.01 as pay for accounting purposes) and paying for his business-related travels. On the other hand, like most people, I’m not too thrilled about the fraud charges he faced as a CEO. Now we have the gambling issue. Can I trust Scott? Not really, but can Disney? Can we really know Scott’s opinion on gambling? He contradicted the Miami Herald today, but never specifically said that they misquoted him or made up the quote (neither would surprise me).

Some people expect a bill to be filed this year that would end Florida’s ban on casinos, allowing plans to place them in Miami to be realized. If that happens, and if the bill is able to make it through the Republican-controlled state legislature, would Scott veto it? It’s impossible to tell, considering his position on gambling seems to be shaky. Even if you take him at his present word, that he is okay with the current level of gambling but doesn’t want to increase it, does he feel strongly enough to override the wishes of the lawmakers elected by the Florida people? At this point, no one really knows.

One Response to “Florida Governor Denies Seeking Gambling Expansion”

  1. Bret Cassidy says:

    With this and continuing question around online regulation, it is going to be an interesting few years to come.