Gambling in Florida fight continues

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A $400,000 study of increased gambling's economic impact on Florida found little boost for the economy.

State lawmakers held the second of four public hearings Wednesday afternoon in Lakeland on whether to allow mega casinos.

Florida's dog tracks and jai alai fronts that don't have slots want them. Four counties have voted to allow slots in existing facilities, but the state won't grant licenses, and big players are pushing for at least one mega casino in South Florida.

"What we really want is to have one competitively bid destination or integrated resort permit," said Nick Iarossi, of Las Vegas Sands.

The goal of the state senators' meetings is comprehensive regulation of all gambling in Florida, but most suspect there will also be mega casinos.

The Florida Chamber is the loudest voice shouting no.

"Well, our view is the juice simple isn't worth the squeeze," said David Hart, of the Chamber. "These casinos, they need us far more then we need them."

But the position of one of the state's biggest players has gambling supporters crying foul. Disney has consistently opposed more gambling, but reports show the entertainment giant makes millions licensing its Marvel Comic Characters to slots and other entities.

Spider-Man is prominently featured in the promo for a new high tech slot machine.

The Chamber says Disney bought Marvel after most of the licensing agreements were in place. Dan Krassner, of Integrity Florida, calls it hypocritical.

"To say that they're against the expansion of gaming to protect Florida's family-friendly brand does not ring true, especially since they are profiting off of gaming themselves," Krassner said.

In the end, billions of dollars are at stake, and that makes for what will be the most bitter battle of the coming legislative session.

Most recent polls show Florida voters are evenly split on the topic of expanded gambling.

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