Vote yes on Referendum No. 3
To the editor:
Efforts continue to allow for broadening of gambling in Florida. Referendum No. 3 provides an opportunity for a focused, objective public policy discussion on this industry. Referendum No. 3 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 what are 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 Referendum No. 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 hinder or foster economic development in Florida? There is no question the casinos and projects associated to gambling will prosper, but are there real economic benefits for the community as a whole resulting in non-casino job creation? 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. Below are some issues which would and should be examined and considered if the public has the final decision. Of the many that should be evaluated, these are a sample of key issues:
– 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 not require any new casinos to train local workers so that those jobs go to the local community? No casino should open unless and until the local workforce can be identified and trained.
– Cannibalization of current local business. Destination resorts often have a negative impact on neighboring businesses because consumers are encouraged to stay in the resort to spend their money instead of going out to local restaurants, merchants, and other venues. This is underscored by Miami Beach’s firm opposition to any expansion of gambling into that city.
– The social costs of alcoholism, gambling addiction, prostitution, organized and street crime. Who pays? The cost and impact of these “social costs” are usually vastly under-estimated by local government.
– Traffic and costs associated with new infrastructure. Who pays?
– The impact, if any, on tourism, economic development, and district revitalizations.
– The net tax to state and local governments. History shows that the state is usually the major beneficiary of new tax revenues, while local governments receive proportionately less, and usually assume most of the costs.
– Regulatory requirements. Will employees with criminal records be allowed to work at the casinos? What controls are needed? How can we insure that local companies are equitably represented as casino vendors and service providers?
– Substitution of tax revenue from other non-casino tax generation expenditures.
– Support of prospective image of Florida as a diversified international business platform in addition to tourism and gambling centers. How will this be viewed? Additional revenue will be needed to promote non-casino industries to help local and expanding industries in Florida.
– Local versus state control and input relative to casino regulation and economic investment requirements.
Referendum No. 3 will ensure the public will have an objective and thorough analysis, not paid for by the casinos or any other “partners” 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 made in Atlantic City and other locales, I recommend a yes vote on Referendum No. 3.
Frank R. Nero