Fla. could soon have more casinos

Several bills in legislature would expand gambling in the state

Published On: Jan 18 2012 08:21:14 AM EST   Updated On: Jan 18 2012 08:28:01 AM EST
Gambling
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Expanding gambling is one of the biggest controversies of this election year and it's playing out right here in Florida.

Right now there are several bills in the state legislature that would expand gambling in this state, meaning more casinos in more places.

This comes as other states have found out it's a quick way to generate a lot of revenue at a time when they really need it.

Many wonder if there is any chance we could see a casino built in our area and the short answer is yes.

But some say casinos already exist here. Internet cafes are often called storefront casinos because they already allow online gaming.

One bill wants to shut down internet cafes entirely.

But there's another bill right now that's getting even more attention because it would allow a community anywhere in the state to build a multi-million dollar casino resort.

Here's a breakdown of how it would work.

Senate bill 710 would allow counties the option of putting a referendum on the ballot to allow a resort casino. Voters would have to pass that referendum but even then, someone would have to invest in the casino and build it.

It's more likely casinos would be built in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties where investors have already expressed interest.

The bill would allow dog tracks to add slot machines, but only in counties where a casino resort already exists.

If the resort casino is built in Miami, some predict it will generate up to two billion dollars a year and could become a major tourist destination.

Many states around the nation are allowing more and more gambling because it's creating much needed revenue for cities and schools.

While this bill will likely only affect southern Florida, it could open the door for bigger projects here closer to Jacksonville.

"There seems to be more talk about them coming to the south florida community, but we opened it up for any count to become eligible, and jacksonville is certainly eligible if the voters are interested," Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff said.

It seems the public is warming to the idea of more casino gambling. A recent quinnipiac poll asked how Floridians feel about Las Vegas style casinos coming to Florida.

48 percent said they favor casino gambling, 43 percent say they're opposed to it and nine percent said they have no opinion.

When asked if they think gambling is good for the local economy, 61 percent said yes, 33 percent said no and six percent had no opinion.

Senate bill 710 passed a committee vote earlier this week. Some think it has no shot of passing in the house even if it does pass in the senate, but it's clear gambling is going to continue to be an issue for Florida voters in the years to come.

Many also wonder about internet cafes, whether or not there is any chance they will be shut down entirely. That is not likely. While one bill is calling for them to be shut down, another is pushing for them to be regulated by the state.

There are about 1,000 of these around the state and each one employs about 13 people. Politicians don't see any state lawmakers wanting to support signing off on a bill that would eliminate 13,000 jobs right now.