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Report: Gambling expansion would have little effect on Florida's economy

3:44 PM, Oct 7, 2013   |    comments
Spectrum Gaming Group executives testify before the Senate Gaming Committee at the state Capitol.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A draft report concludes expanding the gaming industry in Florida would have little effect on the state's economy but could create social costs of more than $1 billion.

The Senate Gaming committee met in Tallahassee Monday to hear preliminary findings from a gambling research firm.

The Spectrum Gaming Group was supposed to deliver its final report last week.

But state lawmakers decided the report was too confusing and incomplete, so they gave the firm another 30 days to finish its work.

One of the main conclusions so far finds that expanded gambling would provide only a moderate gain for Florida's economy.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who opposes more gambling, said that conclusion shows him more gaming is not worth the cost.

"To me, that's a positive because I am not for expanding gambling overall. But I'm open-minded. I'm going to listen. We have four tours around the state to listen to folks and we'll see what happens after that."

The committee will hold public hearings in Lakeland, Jacksonville, Pensacola and South Florida.

Committee chairman Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, told Spectrum executives that he expects them to deliver reliable, meaningful and understandable information to lawmakers.

"I know that asking for an extension was not an easy and not your preferred choice. But I appreciate the fact that you are in alliance with our need to have understandable and reliable information."

Spectrum Executive Vice President Joseph Weinert testified an expansion of gambling would likely have only a moderate impact because the state's economy already is so expansive.

He said the state would collect more tax collections and see a mildly positive impact on employment and wages.

Spectrum Managing Director Michael Pollock told senators Florida is currently considered a major gaming state and the issue of allowing an expansion should be carefully weighed.

"Decisions to expand or introduce any form of gaming will have ramifications that are going to last for generations and such decisions are largely irreversible. The very moment that a new facility opens, it creates powerful political forces and new stakeholders who have an interest in the new status quo and that's one reason why gaming often expands and rarely contracts."

Dave Heller

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