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Business Observer Thursday, Sep. 13, 2007 14 years ago

WALSH: REVIEW & COMMENT

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Should we take bets on whether the Seminole Tribe will gain permission to offer Las Vegas-style slot machines and blackjack?Or would that be illegal gambling, subject to arrest by the Rubio State Morality Police?This whole debate over how much gambling the state should or shouldn't allow the Seminole Tribe is an amusing drama of hypocrisy, of the arrogance of "the state" as the arbiter of moral behavior and of the greed of "the state" for money.

REVIEW & COMMENT

Go all the way: Open gambling statewide

By Matt Walsh

Should we take bets on whether the Seminole Tribe will gain permission to offer Las Vegas-style slot machines and blackjack?

Or would that be illegal gambling, subject to arrest by the Rubio State Morality Police?

This whole debate over how much gambling the state should or shouldn't allow the Seminole Tribe is an amusing drama of hypocrisy, of the arrogance of "the state" as the arbiter of moral behavior and of the greed of "the state" for money.

Money, money, money, money!

In reverse order: the greed.

You can imagine what's going through Gov. Crist's populist bulb:

"How great would it be for the state to be handed a $50 million check up front, plus be given - for free, without having to do any work - $100 million a year forever in exchange for simply signing a compact with the Seminoles? It's a win-win-win-win - free money for the state; millions more in revenues for the Seminoles; expanded gambling for Floridians; and I'd still be able to tell the anti-casino puritans that gambling remains limited and regulated."

You can imagine the governor almost hyperventilating. Money never falls off trees this easily.

Next: the arrogance.

On the other hand, we have House Speaker Marco Rubio, good Catholic, father of four, representing the moralistic role of the state. Rubio believes gambling is bad, and the state should do what it can to limit it.

In a letter to the governor opposing the expansion of the Seminoles' casino games - also signed by Reps. Marty Bowen, speaker pro tempore; Ray Sansom, speaker-designate; Dean Cannon, council chair; Adam Hasner, majority leader; and Ellyn Bodganoff, majority whip. - Rubio told the governor: "Instead of maximizing revenue, we want to minimize the inevitable social harm associated with expanded tribal gambling."

For Rubio, obviously, the state should regulate and decide your social and moral behavior.

Who made them the Vatican?

And then there is: hypocrisy.

Basically, the state outlaws full-scale casino gambling. But as we all know it also operates the largest gambling enterprise in Florida - the lottery, an operation, mind you, that draws millions of dollars each week out of the pockets of those who shouldn't be playing it. But it's their choice.

With more than 12,000 outlets selling tickets, the Florida Lottery has been operating for nearly 20 years. In recent years, the lottery has been such a big cash cow it has generated more than $1 billion a year for Florida's education system. In total, lottery gambling has contributed more than $15 billion to the state's education system. What a great state monopoly - it's the only lottery game in town.

Florida, of course, allows other gambling as well - parimutuel wagering at dog tracks, horse tracks and jai alai frontons. We have bingo parlors. We have legalized poker card rooms. We have legalized slot machines in Dade and Broward counties. And we have an armada of 100 cruise ships docked around Florida that sail a few miles off the coast before they open their gambling parlors to their patrons. Let's not forget, either, all of the weekend sports betting that occurs online and the betting that consumes college basketball fans during March Madness.

And Rubio is worried about the harmful effects of allowing blackjack and Vegas slot machines at the Seminole Indian casinos in Florida?

Is he serious?

Fact is, Florida lawmakers should quit living in denial. Legalize gambling all the way.

The state has no business moralizing how anyone spends his money. Nor should the state discriminate on who can or cannot offer gambling or how much gambling is to be permitted. Either all or none, and none would be wrong.

Let the governor sign the compact with the Seminoles. And then, in the next legislative session, lawmakers should vote for the marketplace. Let the market determine the level of gambling in Florida. In such a scenario, with all of the development and tourism that would follow, the state's revenues would dwarf what the Seminoles have offered.

+ How to cut the budget

Florida lawmakers gave up last week trying to figure out how to cut $1.1 billion from the state's $71.95 billion budget. They couldn't agree.

No surprise there.

To his credit, Gov. Crist made an earnest attempt. He proposed cutting $830 million from the operating budgets of the state's 33 agencies. At the same time, borrowing a page from his predecessor Jeb Bush during the post-9/11 recession, Crist also proposes increasing spending and borrowing to boost road and school construction and housing subsidies. (Nice populist gesture, but it won't make a difference.) Altogether, Crist produced a 15-page spreadsheet with detailed suggestions that whittle $983.2 million out of the budget.

If you look at the table below, we have calculated the pro-rata share of reductions if the Legislature and governor agreed to pro-rata cuts to all agencies. We also have included the governor's proposed cuts and a column that indicates whether Crist's proposed cuts are greater or less than the pro-rata share. For the record, Crist proposes greater than pro-rata cuts for 16 agencies.

As always, in the tradition of Florida politicians, he spares education - primarily at the expense of the Agency for Health Care Administration. Rather than increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals and health care providers as originally proposed in the budget, Crist proposes to cut the level of the increases. This, of course, will mean the providers will pass along what they don't get from Medicaid patients to those of us who do pay. What you take from one must always come from another.

To be sure, pro-rata cuts would be the fairest and fastest methodology for the lawmakers. But that won't occur.

Lawmakers will feel compelled to nitpick, bargain, broker, beg and wrestle in an excruciating special session in October. After all, making laws and being a lawmaker is all about protecting yours at the expense of the others, otherwise called legal plunder.

WATCH OUT WHAT

YOU WISH FOR

For all those who advocate and dream about no growth and limited development, you're living your dream. Florida's current economic climate is what it is like when growth stops - people lose jobs, businesses shut down, the economy stalls, real estate values decline, wealth shrinks, government services are either cut or taxes rise for those still here to carry the burden.

What a great way to live.

WHERE WOULD YOU LOOK TO CUT THE BUDGET?

If the Legislature and governor agree to pro-rata cuts in the budget, the table shows how much would be cut from each agency as well as how much Gov. Crist has proposed be cut. The final column shows whether Crist's proposals are greater or less than pro-rata cuts. Top 10 highest-spending agencies are ranked by number. Dollars are in thousands.

FLORIDA BUDGET BY AGENCY

Agency % of Pro-rata Crist's > /

Budget Budget Share Cuts <

1. Education $24,326,363 33.8% $371,800 $161,716 >

2. Agency for Health Care Admin. $16,802,605 23.3 256,300 375,707 >

3. Transportation $8,451,756 11.7 128,700 4,646 <

4. Children and Family Services $2,980,726 4.1 45,100 47,346 >

5. Health $2,839,182 3.9 42,900 9,850 <

6. Corrections $2,505,061 3.5 38,500 18,352 <

7. Environmental Protection $2,436,655 3.4 37,400 60,195 >

8. Community Affairs * $1,719,280 2.4 26,400 <

9. Agency for Workforce Innovation $1,519,050 2.1 23,100 25,272 >

10. Agency for Persons w/ Disabilities $1,193,404 1.6 17,600 19,448 >

Administered Funds (STATEWIDE) $402,742 0.56 6,160 -

Agriculture and Consumer Services $382,736 0.53 5,830 6,060 >

Business and Professional Regulation $144,301 0.20 2,200 4,031 >

Citrus $67,329 0.09 990 0 <

Elder Affairs $393,170 0.54 5,940 14,914 >

Executive Office of the Governor $471,231 0.65 7,150 1,471 <

Financial Services ** $293,452 0.40 4,400 10,190 >

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Comm. $282,512 0.39 4,290 3,808 <

Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles $447,363 0.62 6,820 7,819 >

Justice Administration $796,382 1.1 12,100 686 <

Juvenile Justice $716,245 0.99 10,890 33,133 >

Law Enforcement $294,815 0.40 4,400 2,341 <

Legal Affairs $176,284 0.24 2,640 4,560 >

Legislative Branch $222,682 0.31 3,410 -

Lottery $161,004 0.22 2,420 107 <

Management Services $551,733 0.76 8,360 1,437 <

Military Affairs $74,430 0.10 1,100 1,783 >

Parole Commission $10,156 0.01 110 688 >

Public Service Commission $28,312 0.04 440 475 >

Revenue $562,629 0.78 8,580 8,119 <

State $130,598 0.18 1,980 623 <

State Court System $491,834 0.68 7,480 5,660 <

Veterans' Affairs $77,274 0.10 1,100 316 <

Total $71,953,311 $1,058,090 $830,753 <

* Gov. Crist proposes increasing DCA spending by $74 million with subsidies for homebuyers. ** Includes offices of financial and insurance regulation

Source: Florida House, Governor's office

BETTING IS BIG-TIME BUSINESS IN FLORIDA

Casinos

Clewiston - Big Cypress Casino

Coconut Creek - Seminole Casino Coconut Creek

Hollywood - Seminole Casino HollywoodSeminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood

Immokalee - Seminole Casino Immokalee

Miami - Miccosukee Resort & Gaming Center

Okeechobee - Seminole Casino Brighton

Tampa - Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa

Casino Cruises *

Cape Canaveral - Sterling Casino Lines - Ambassador II

Fort Lauderdale - SeaEscape-Island Adventure

Fort Myers Beach - Big Cat ExpressBig M Casino

Key Largo - SunCruz Casino

Jacksonville/Mayport - SunCruz Casino

Miami - Discovery Sun

Ponce Inlet/Daytona Beach - SunCruz Casino

Port Canaveral - SunCruz Casino

Port Richey - SunCruz Casino

Riviera Beach/Palm Beach -

Palm Beach Princess SunCruz Casino, Palm Beach SunCruz Casino VI

* There are also 100 cruise ships based in Florida ports that have gaming entertainment.

Dog Tracks

Jacksonville - Orange Park Kennel Club

Longwood - Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club

Pensacola - Pensacola Greyhound Track

Tampa - Tampa Greyhound Track

Dog Track Racinos

Bonita Springs - Naples/Fort Myers Greyhound Track

Daytona Beach - Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room

Ebro - Ebro Greyhound Track

Hallandale Beach - Mardi Gras Racetrack and Gaming Center

Jacksonville - Jacksonville Greyhound Racing Park

Melbourne - Melbourne Greyhound Park

Miami - Flagler Greyhound Track and Poker

Monticello - Jefferson County Kennel Club

Saint Petersburg - Derby Lane

Sarasota - Sarasota Kennel Club

West Palm Beach - Palm Bch Kennel Club Poker Room

Horse Tracks

Miami Gardens - Calder Race Course

Horse Track Racinos

Hallandale - Gulfstream Park

Pompano Beach - The Isle Casino & Racing at Pompano Park

Tampa - Tampa Bay Downs

Jai-Alai Frontons

Casselberry

Orlando Jai-Alai

Dania Beach

Dania Jai-Alai

Fort Pierce

Fort Pierce Jai-Alai

Jasper -Hamilton Jai Alai and Poker

Miami - Miami Jai-Alai

Orange Lake

Ocala Jai-Alai

Source: Casino City

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