Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi join opponents of legislation that would allow the construction of multi-billion dollar resort casinos in South Florida.
Tallahassee, Florida - Opponents of a proposal to build three mega-casinos in South Florida have added two strong voices to their side of the debate.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam stood side by side at the state Capitol on Thursday and denounced legislation that would allow the construction of multi-billion dollar resort casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Putnam called the bill an insidious threat, saying it would pave the way for more gambling throughout Florida. He argued the short-term economic boost from resort casinos would tarnish Florida's world-famous family-friendly image in the long run.
"It's not what's good for Florida's families. It's not what's good for future economic development. It's not what's good for the safety and security of our neighborhoods and our communities and it's not what Florida needs. We should not sell our state short in difficult economic times and make a deal with the false promises that come from casino gambling that will only lead to heartbreak and crime and disappointment and broken communities in the years and decades ahead."
Attorney General Bondi, a former prosecutor, said the casinos would take Florida in the wrong direction.
"Authorizing mega-casinos can lead to increased crime. I simply cannot stand by and watch the groundwork being laid for a Florida where there will be casinos and there will be casinos throughout our state."
Bondi said Floridians have heard this pitch before - several years ago the Seminole Indians sealed a deal with the state to hold the exclusive rights to casino gambling because, the argument went, gaming would be so lucrative it would prevent any further expansion of gambling.
"Yet here we are only a very short time later being asked to go along with yet another massive expansion. The fact is that allowing mega casinos in South Florida will only serve to justify the next push for even more gambling in other parts of Florida. In fact, under the terms of our compact with the Seminoles, authorizing mega casinos in South Florida will give the Seminoles the legal right to convert the Tampa Hard Rock Casino to a full-blown, Vegas-style casino. So there we have it. We would have the full expansion in Tampa."
Steve Casey of the Florida Sheriffs Association said studies show crime has increased from five percent to 30 percent in some areas with casinos over five years.
Supporters of multi-billion dollar casinos argue the projects would create tens of thousands of jobs and attract tourists from all over the world.
Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson doesn't buy that argument. He said resort casinos would drain money away from existing businesses and lead to other problems.
Wilson said Florida should learn from Nevada's example where the casino-based economy has led the state to lead the nation in a host of unwanted categories.
"They can keep their recent number one rankings in unemployment, foreclosures, violent crime, personal bankruptcy and divorce. They can keep their number one rankings."