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Disney Wrapped Up In Florida Gambling Expansion Battle

Lawmakers in Florida are again considering the possibility of bringing casino resorts to the Sunshine State, and much like in past years, the resistance is coming from a company known for bringing joy to billions of children.

The Walt Disney Company has fought tooth and nail over the years to keep casino resorts out of Florida. Entrenched in the Bible belt of Florida, Disney World is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, and the parent company wants to ensure that gamblers stay far away from their safe haven.

The biggest question being raised these days as legislators prepare to take up casino resort bills is whether Disney is dealing out of hypocrisy. The company purchased the rights to Marvel Comics back in 2009. Marvel had several gaming deals in place with slot developers to create slot machines based around popular Marvel characters from the Avengers to Spider Man.

Disney asserts that those deals were legally binding and in place before they took over Marvel. The company, through a spokesman, has said that they have not signed a slot deal in the past two years, and they would not be renewing deals once the current agreements run out. It is a big blow to the gaming industry.

"Casual gamblers like to walk into a casino and see familiarity on the slot machines," said analyst Nick Grant. "That familiarity of seeing a character that they know from a comic, movie, or other form of entertainment, draws the gamblers to certain slots. There's no doubt the gaming industry will feel the effects of losing Marvel characters on their machines."

The bigger effect on the gaming industry in Florida has been Disney's tremendous strength in the Legislature. With hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in lobbyists, Disney has long controlled many bills that come before lawmakers, and they plan on using that pull once again to keep casino resorts out.

"We oppose the legalization of so-called destination resort casinos because this major expansion of gambling is inconsistent with Florida's reputation as a family-friendly destination," said Walt Disney World Spokeswoman Andrea M. Finger.

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