TALLAHASSEE, Fla. A Florida Senate bill that could allow for Las Vegas style casinos in South Florida won’t be rolled out for at least another week and half. Florida gaming expansion could be a fight this session between gamblers and Mickey Mouse.
Anti-gambling groups are trying to stack the deck against gaming expansion in Florida. Orlando based No Casinos is touting numbers showing Florida is the 23rd biggest state for gambling, not 4th as supporters have often said.
Regardless of the number, Vice President Brewster Bevis of pro-gaming Associated Industries of Florida says that building casinos would bring in millions for the economy. “Imagine a convention brining in 33,000 people. Those people will spend money in Florida, they’ll spend money in Miami.”
The top-dog in Florida tourism, Disney, is also adamantly opposed to resort casinos in South Florida. Mickey and friends feel like it would hurt the state’s family friendly image. “I don’t agree with that. I think Miami and Central Florida are two totally different areas.”
Conservative members of the legislature have killed gaming bills in the past, but chamber leaders could be ready to take a chance.
Senate President Don Gaetz has voted against almost every gaming expansion policy in the past. But House Speaker Will Weatherford said he would be open to new casinos if a gaming commission was put in place and voters made a referendum happen. Gaetz is standing by his House counterpart if they can come up with regulations.
“The question is, are we going to have a gaming policy that is comprehensive and fair and balanced. And so Speaker Weatherford and I need to make sure we lay the predicate for that.”
Florida’s Senate Committee on gaming is expected to have a bill on expansion on February 24th.