Game on: Florida Senate solicits public input on gambling

By Dara Kam

The Florida Senate launched a website where members of the public can put in their two cents about destination resorts and other kinds of gambling under the microscope this session.

The Senate Gaming Committee is taking its show on the road this month and next with a series of meetings beginning in Coconut Creek on Oct. 23.

“During the 2014 Legislative Session, the Senate aims to replace the current makeshift structure with a comprehensive statewide approach to gaming policy,” Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, wrote in a memo to “community leaders and citizens” on Thursday urging people to attend the workshops.

“In particular, we are interested in public reactions to the two-part ‘Florida Gambling Impact Study,’ commissioned by the Florida Legislature earlier this year. The study provides an independent and unbiased factual assessment of the social and economic impacts of gaming,” he wrote.

Richter does not mention in the memo that Spectrum Gaming Group, the authors of report originally due Oct. 1 and for which the Legislature paid nearly $400,000, last week sought a one-month delay after state economists questioned some of the analysis.

At a committee meeting this week, Spectrum and Regional Economic Modeling Inc., or REMI, representatives said the report was incomplete. And the Legislature’s economist Amy Baker told the panel to ignore findings in the draft report, first obtained by The News Service of Florida and later released to the public, which concluded that wide-open gambling scenario of more than 33 casinos and six destination resort scattered throughout the state would cause more than a $20 million drop in state revenue. Instead, Baker said the revised analysis is expected to project more than a $1 billion gain for the state.

Read Richter’s full memo after the jump.

Memorandum

To: Community leaders and citizens

From: Senator Garrett Richter, Chair, Senate Gaming Committee

Subject: Invitation to public workshops

Date: October 10, 2013

Gaming is a well-established business sector in Florida with roots stretching back to the 1890s. In the past 25 years, gaming industries have been transformed, not just in Florida but all around the country. Pari-mutuel wagering has declined. The State Lottery, as well as cruises, card rooms, casinos, and “Internet cafes” have emerged. Meanwhile, Florida’s approach to regulating and taxing gaming activities has not kept pace, and the current layers of exceptions and patches are not working well to promote the state’s overall economic and social welfare.

During the 2014 Legislative Session, the Senate aims to replace the current makeshift structure with a comprehensive statewide approach to gaming policy.

In preparation for this important work, the Senate Gaming Committee is conducting public meetings across the state to listen to the views of as many citizens as possible. In particular, we are interested in public reactions to the two-part “Florida Gambling Impact Study,” commissioned by the Florida Legislature earlier this year. The study provides an independent and unbiased factual assessment of the social and economic impacts of gaming.

Understanding local perspectives and personal impacts is an instrumental component of public policy decisions that could impact the future of gaming in our state for generations. Community leaders and interested citizens are encouraged to add their testimony to the committee record by submitting comments in writing or speaking at a public workshop.

From the Senate’s “Gaming” web page (http://www.flsenate.gov/topics/gaming), you can:

•?Download a copy of the “Florida Gambling Impact Study.”

•?Submit comments in writing.

•?Access maps and directions for attending a public workshop.

•?Register to speak at a public workshop (deadline for online requests is three days prior to workshop; those who miss the deadline and wish to speak may attend the workshop and fill out appearance cards onsite).

Four workshops are scheduled at locations across the state:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 4:00 – 7:00 PM (Eastern)
Broward College, North Campus, OMNI Auditorium
1000 Coconut Creek Blvd, Coconut Creek, FL 33066
To be listed on the agenda, make request to speak on or before October 16, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 3:00 – 6:00 PM (Eastern)
George Jenkins High School, Auditorium
6000 Lakeland Highlands Road, Lakeland, FL 33813
To be listed on the agenda, make request to speak on or before October 23, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013, 1:30 – 4:30 PM (Central)
WSRE-TV Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio
1000 College Boulevard, Pensacola, FL 32504
To be listed on the agenda, make request to speak on or before November 7, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013, 2:00 – 5:00 PM (Eastern)
Florida State College at Jacksonville Downtown Campus, Advanced Technology Center
401 W. State St., Jacksonville, FL 32202
To be listed on the agenda, make request to speak on or before November 8, 2013

In addition, the Senate Gaming Committee will meet in Tallahassee on November 4 and December 9 to hear more public and industry reactions to the “Florida Gambling Impact Study.”

Citizens are encouraged to attend the public workshops, share your perspectives, view meeting records (http://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/GM), and track these important issues during the 2014 Session.

The News Service of Florida