Efforts continue to allow for broadening of gambling in Florida.
Amendment 3 provides an opportunity for a focused, objective public policy discussion on this industry. It will put the decision on whether to expand gambling in the hands of the public rather than the politicians and the lobbyists representing gambling interests.
Hopefully, if passed, this will give the public the opportunity to discover the true costs and benefits of expanded legalized gambling in Florida. The public and private sectors must engage in an objective, unbiased cost benefit analysis of casino gambling. Recent events to expand this industry in Florida prior to the potential passage of the referendum underscores the importance of voting yes on Amendment 3.
The proponents of expanded casino gambling cite job growth, additional tourism, increasing business and tax revenues and decreasing the local community’s tax burden as the economic benefits of casino gambling. Less often mentioned are the costs of crime, compulsive gambling, erosion of work ethic, traffic congestion and other social costs.
The key issue is: Will the expansion of casino gambling in Florida hinder or foster economic development in Florida?
Will casinos draw from other venues and sectors? Will expanded gambling benefit or have a negative impact on the perception and reality of the growth of a broad-based diversified economy?
Before the state and local governments agree to support the expansion of gambling, as attractive as the proposals may seem, an objective dialogue must evaluate the potential short and long-term impacts on Florida. Most importantly, the citizens should have the final say.
Land speculation could inflate prices of real estate and appraised value of land around casino development, ensuring that no one could afford to buy or rent near the property. Many merchants may have to find locations elsewhere. Residential displacement could be an end result.
Only employees who have been trained to work in casinos will be able to get the higher paying skilled jobs at casinos. Few locals are trained for these jobs currently. Why Require new casinos to train local workers so those jobs go to the local community. No casino should open until the local workforce can be trained.
Casinos often have a negative impact on neighboring businesses because consumers are encouraged to stay in the casino to spend their money instead of going to local restaurants and merchants.
The social costs of alcoholism, gambling addiction, prostitution, organized and street crime social costs are usually vastly underestimated by local government.
Who pays for traffic and infrastructure costs?
What will be the impact on tourism, economic development and revitalizations?
What is the net tax gain to state and local governments? The state is usually the major beneficiary of new tax revenues while local governments receive proportionately less, and usually assume most of the costs.
Will employees with criminal records be allowed to work at the casinos? What controls are needed? How can we ensure that local companies are equitably represented as casino vendors and service providers?
Additional revenue will be needed to promote non-casino industries to help local and expanding industries in Florida.
Amendment 3 will ensure the public will have objective and thorough analysis, not funded by the casinos or anyone invested in gambling prior to any approved expansion of gambling in Florida.
As an economic development professional of 40 years, who has witnessed the false promises this industry has made, I recommend ayes vote on Amendment 3.
Frank R. Nero of Sanibel is the former Jacksonville Deputy Mayor and director of the former Downtown Development Association from 1990 to 1996.
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