Florida House Establishes Select Committee on Gaming
The Florida state House of Representatives has called for the formation of a Select Committee on Gaming to look into gambling industry regulation in the state and to determine the future of the industry going forward, the Miami Herald blog has announced.
State Representative Rob Schenck, Republican of Spring Hill, has been chosen to lead the committee. He is already the chairman of the Rules Committee. In the Florida State Senate, a committee with the same mandate has also been established, to be headed up by Republican State Senator Garrett Richter of Naples.
Richter, who has never dealt with gaming issues previously, has said he will commission a report to study gambling’s influence on the Sunshine State as well as to investigate the economic impact of possible changes. Lawmakers plan to “take it slow” and have recommendations ready by the commencement of the 2014 legislative session.
Addressing the need for improved industry oversight, in a statement Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford said, “The House Select Committee on Gaming will be charged with looking [at] Florida’s gaming activity holistically to determine ways to improve the state’s oversight of the industry.”
“Under Representative Schenck’s leadership, I’m confident we can determine what changes – if any – are needed to develop a comprehensive policy for gaming in Florida,” he added.
As in many states, gambling tends to be a hot-button issue in Florida, with the usual push and pull between opposing forces. Pro-gambling factions tend to point to positives such as job creation and tax revenue generated by gambling, whereas opponents tend to cleave to issues such as problem gambling and increased crime that can sometimes accompany the expansion of casino gambling.
For his part, Schenck agreed with Weatherford on the necessity of establishing a clearer path prior to any modification of policy toward gambling, saying, “Gaming is an issue that requires a careful consideration of existing law before any decisions are made regarding the industry’s future in Florida.”
“I look forward to conducting a comprehensive review to set a long term vision for the future of gaming in Florida,” Schenck said.
Meanwhile, there are forces within the state who are looking for expansion beyond the pari-mutuel wagering, lotteries, and tribal gaming currently permitted under Florida law. Lawmakers are under increasing pressure from large casino corporations, however, to clear the way for the establishment of large, Nevada-style resort casinos in the state. Proponents of the casinos point to the potential for increased tourism the construction of resort casinos could bring.
Opponents of casino expansion have been vocally opposed to the idea, often arguing that tourism is thriving without such properties. Additionally, the opposition maintains that the establishment of resort-style casinos would serve to deprive existing businesses of customers, much in the way that a Walmart can force local businesses to go under.
Said State Senator Gwen Margolis, Democrat of Miami, “Miami is a great destination without gambling. We don’t have a recession in Miami, we came out of it first because of tourism. I don’t need a casino there. This destination place will be smack in the middle of my district and I don’t want to see my district become Atlantic City.”
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