Florida Gaming Expansion Holds Risks: Saint Index Cited

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Saint Index Findings Cited in Spectrum Gaming Study for Legislature


Florida has one of the most competitive gambling markets in the nation with a parimutuel industry that “resembles a circular firing squad,” a regulatory environment that is a “mess,” and any expansion of gambling — such as destination resorts — will result in more expansion because “the industry rarely shrinks.”

According to the Miami Herald, those are candid first conclusions contained in the initial installment of an independent study of the gaming industry in Florida released late Monday by the House Select Committee on Gaming.

The Saint Index, which tracks and quantifies support and opposition to a wide range of land use development projects, is cited in the report, which was delivered to the Florida Legislature by the Spectrum Gaming Group as lawmakers attempt to embark on an ambitious plan of rewriting the state’s gambling laws and deciding how much expansion to allow.

A casino is consistently the second most opposed type of local development project in the Saint Index results. “This stands in contrast to the American Gaming Association’s annual poll, which in 2012 showed that 85 percent of Americans say that casino gambling is acceptable for themselves or others – demonstrating the NIMBY factor,” the Spectrum report notes.

What may be the initial report’s starkest observation of all, at least according to the Miami Herald, is that Florida may want to stay away from casinos or it will harm the state and Orlando’s tourist brand.

The report was commissioned by both House and Senate Select Committees on Gaming, and Spectrum Gaming Group was selected through a competitive procurement process. Spectrum’s project team included Dr. Howard Shaffer, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Division on Addiction at The Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate; Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI); Doug Walker, associate professor of economics at the College of Charleston; and, Lori Pennington-Gray, associate director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute at the University of Florida.

This is the first of three reports due to the Legislature. The two additional reports will be delivered by Spectrum on or before October 1, and will cover: Assessment of potential changes and economic effects; and Statistical relationships between gaming and economic variables for communities. Spectrum will not make recommendations in any of its reports. The Legislature commissioned Spectrum to undertake an economic and academic study for the purpose of educating the state’s policy makers and other stakeholders so that they may make enlightened decisions regarding the future of gambling in their state.

While this initial report provides a discussion of the many social costs of gambling, Spectrum as part of its next report will determine the costs as they relate to expanded gambling in Florida.

 Click here to view the full report.

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