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Gambling Expansion Opposition Adds Attorney General In Florida

Many of the biggest names in the political landscape of Florida have lined up in favor of bringing full-scale Vegas-style casino gambling to the Sunshine State. On Thursday, the anti-gaming groups picked up a ringing endorsement of their own when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi added her name to the list of those opposed to gambling expansion.

The bill that has been produced in the Senate would bring three destination resorts to Florida. The addition of the three casino resorts would bring billions of dollars to the state's economy, according to reports and projections that have been completed on the issue. The largest Las Vegas-based gaming companies have been lobbying for casino resorts in Florida for several years.

Bondi is joined by legislators who have been examining the gaming bill in detail this week. From the discussions on the legislation, lawmakers have found that more time may be needed before the state jumps into the world of full-scale casino gambling.

"I think this legislation is a major change in the culture and brand in the state of Florida and frankly I think it expands gambling to the point where I am concerned about it," said Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, a Republican from St. Augustine.

The battle over the expanded gambling is turning out to be regional in Florida. In the northern part of the state, through the Bible Belt, many people oppose the gambling expansion plan. In the South, however, there is strong support for the bill. The three casino resorts would all be built in South Florida, more directly, South Beach.

Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson began the lobbying for casino resorts shortly after Governor Rick Scott was elected. Scott was reported to have been on Adelson's private plane just hours after his election win last year. Steve Wynn and Genting have also been pushing for the casino resort expansion, both figuring to gain licenses for one of the three authorized resorts.

Florida lawmakers have slowly expanded gambling in the state since the early nineties. First the state created a lottery, then they allowed poker rooms and slots at state race tracks. Last year, the state agreed on a compact with the Seminole Indians that allows the tribe to offer blackjack and baccarat at five of their seven casinos in Florida. At that time, lawmakers also expanded hours of operation at pari-mutuel gaming facilities, and lifted betting limits across the board.

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