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Gambling Battle In Florida Heats Up As Casino Resort PAC Is Formed

Big gaming companies such as Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands lost out earlier this year in their attempt to bring major casino resorts to the Sunshine State. Now, the gaming interests are going a different route, hoping to bring the issue to voters and bypass the state Legislature.

A political action committee has been formed to start the process of having the issue placed on the ballot in 2014. At stake for Floridians are the possibility of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, and thousands of jobs that are being promised by the groups looking to bring casino resorts to Florida.

Las Vegas Sands has been the company most aggressive in their attempt to bring Vegas-style resorts to Florida, but other gaming companies have joined in the fight. Genting, a Malaysian company, has already purchased the home of the Miami Herald. The facility is being built into Resorts World Miami, and the resort will have room for a casino on the second floor.

Tallahassee political consultant John French is the person responsible for starting the PAC process. French filed paperwork to create New Jobs and Revenue for Florida, but the purpose of the PAC was obvious in the filing, "Statewide constitutional amendment, re:gaming."

Anti-gambling groups have already started their campaign against the expansion of gambling in the state. Central Florida appears to be the biggest hurdle for any gaming initiative. With the Walt Disney theme parks located in the center of the state, anti-gaming politicians believe that bringing casino resorts to Florida could damage the already strong tourism industry.

"Unlike other places that have legalized casino gambling, we in Florida actually have something to lose," said John Sowinski, head of the anti-gaming group No Casinos. "We have a family-friendly tourism brand, and already existing economy."

Pro-gaming expansion lawmakers have been selling the idea that Florida's school system is seeing cuts across the board, and that the tax revenue that would be generated from casino resorts would go a long way in filling those budget holes. The promise of thousands of employment opportunities for Floridians is also appealing to many residents.

"Our economy has been in the dumps for several years, our kids are losing music and sports programs in school, and our unemployment rate is through the roof," said Howard Tremble, a South Florida resident. "I don't see any reason why this would even be a debate. They're not looking to put these resorts next door to Disney World, they're looking to put them in the southern part of the state, hours away from Disney."

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