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Anti-Gambling Groups Turning To Familiar Arguments In Florida

The battle over destination casino resorts in South Florida has begun, and it has not taken anti-gaming groups long to create their own diversion. The battle in Florida will be between conservatives in the Bible Belt of Central and North Florida and those pushing for casino resorts in South Florida.

The battle lines have been drawn between pro and anti-gambling groups for decades, and the first shot has been fired this week by those opposed to the casino resorts bill in the Sunshine State. The Orlando Sentinel has reported that the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling has 5,848 callers looking for help with gambling addiction. That number, according to the Sentinel, is up 18% from the previous fiscal year.

Anti-gaming groups will be using these figures to draw a correlation between the gambling expansion that has taken place over the past year, and the increase in problem gamblers calling the hot line. The issue of increased problem gambling is one that has been used as a rallying cry for anti-gambling groups all across the country, and analysts believe it will be a main talking point during the debates in the Florida Legislature this year.

"Anytime there is talk of gambling expansion, the issue of problem gambling comes up," said Gaming Analyst Brad Dawkins. "Whether or not the issue is relevant depends on how strongly the lawmakers presenting the arguments feel on the issue. In Florida, it appears as though there is a big divide between the two sides on the gambling issue, and I expect that both sides will use whatever means necessary to win the debate."

Those in favor of gambling expansion point to the idea that along with expansion must come an increased focus and effort to keep gambling addiction cases low. The state of Maryland has been among the most aggressive with casino gambling expansion over the past couple of years, but the state has also devoted millions of dollars in future tax revenue to the prevention and treatment of problem gambling.

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