As the Florida Legislature reconvened in Tallahassee Monday for a special session to iron out the details of the state’s new gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe, one former Republican Governor spoke out against the deal.
“South Florida is on a roll!” failed 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush said in a statement. “Our great quality of life and an incredible surge of job creators to our region have put us on a path for rising income and prosperity for many more of our neighbors. At the time when our economy is poised for an unprecedented takeoff after taking a hit from the pandemic, now is not the time to expand casino gambling which will benefit a handful at the expense of many.”
Bush was the governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.
Bush has long been an opponent of expanding gambling in the state, and even found himself in a tiff on the subject with former President Donald J. Trump during a 2016 primary debate.
Bush accused Trump of pushing for expanded gambling in the state in the 1990’s, a claim which Trump denied.
In the same decade, Bush served on the board of a Florida group called “No Casinos.”
That group recently released a statement against the new compact, as reported by The Florida Capital Star:
“Any expansion of gambling in Florida, if it was casino-style gambling, would require voter approval. And, so, this compact does a number of things that are not on tribal lands. In fact, this agreement paves the way for full-scale, electronic betting of all sorts on phones and electronic devices and mobile devices throughout Florida, not just on tribal lands. It violates amendment three, and more importantly, is an affront to the will of the people of Florida who said they want a voice on these matters not to have these matters worked out and behind closed doors in Tallahassee.”
Proponents of expanding the gambling industry in Florida, including Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), say that the new deal will generate $2.5 billion in revenue in the Sunshine State over the next five years, and $6 billion before 2030.
The compact allows Seminole casinos to add craps and roulette to their casino floors, and host sports betting services for all Floridians on their servers.
“In terms of racing, Hialeah Park Race Track would be able to expand mixed-use buildings for shopping, gambling, as well as some residential structures,” The Florida Capital Star reported.
A 2018 amendment to the Florida Constitution says explicitly that Floridians must vote in favor of any gambling expansions, which could lead to a statewide referendum on the issue.
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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Jeb Bush” by Michael Vadon CC 2.0 and photo “Casino Gaming Floor” by Calder Casino CC 4.0.