Don't fall for it: Casinos are not good for children, education - Florida Politics

Don’t fall for it: Casinos are not good for children, education

generic casino photo

Did you know gambling casinos are good for children?

Spoiler alert: They’re not.

Yet that is the exact claim casino operators are making in an attempt to block Amendment 3, which would put voters in charge of any gambling expansion in Florida.

Using that logic, if politicians were not allowed to populate Florida with casinos, education funding will be gutted, and our children will resemble the poor, forlorn souls pictured on campaign propaganda.

At its foundation, the premise is a lie: Amendment 3 has nothing to do with education.

As a recent Miami Herald headline noted: “Don’t let the gambling industry confuse you on Amendment 3. It’s not about schools.”

The casinos are exploiting people’s natural tendency to support children and education. It’s disinformation honed by the industry’s political operatives in state after state, year after year.

Whenever they want to expand casinos, out come the “poor” children and schools.

And what happens if casinos win and set up shop? The money goes to them and politicians, and not schools.

Florida saw this in 2004 when South Florida pari-mutuels promised $500 million windfalls for public education if they were allowed to have slot machines. In fact, they said it was an “absolute guarantee” that they would back.

They got their slots, but the schools never got the half-billion.

Add to that the Florida Lottery windfall (which schools also never got), and Florida currently ranks 42nd nationally in school funding.

Florida teachers, who also rank 42nd in salary, are forced to pay for school supplies (nearly $500 a year) out of their own meager paychecks.

Of course, all that will turn around if only Floridians allow — wait for it — even more gambling.

Joining the big lie this time is MGM Resorts International, a gambling conglomerate based in Las Vegas, looking for a jackpot in Florida.

If you want to know how casinos helped schools in Nevada, consider this: The state’s education system has ranked dead last in the nation for the past three years, according to the prestigious Quality Counts analysis performed by Education Week. It ranks below Mississippi in per-pupil spending — by more than $1,000 a student.

Does anyone seriously believe MGM Resorts cares anything about Florida school children?

MGM had done this before, spending millions on a casino referendum in Maryland in 2012. That campaign promised, “millions for Maryland schools, guaranteed.”

Critics called it “slots for tots.” The Baltimore Sun called it “nothing more than Las Vegas casino hooey.”

And that’s what it turned out to be.

The massive MGM National Harbor Casino and Hotel is now up and running in Maryland, while schools struggle without the money that never arrived.

State Comptroller Peter Franchot told Baltimore’s WJZ-TV: “The problem is, it was always a hoax and it’s still a hoax perpetrated on the public.”

report in CityLab noted: “Experts on gambling and state funding say that Maryland is only one of the dozens of states taking gambling revenue meant for education and using it for other purposes.”

Are voters going to fall for this again?

Will we let the same people who guaranteed schools $500 million from South Florida slot machines, and the same Las Vegas casino conglomerate that guaranteed millions for Maryland schools, pull the same old scam again?

Casino interests are populating their flyers and TV advertisements against Amendment 3 with pictures of children who look like their cellphones have been confiscated takes cynicism to a new level.

Perhaps it’s desperation setting in.

A recent Associated Industries of Florida poll is showing 69 percent of voters support Amendment 3, with only 17 percent opposed. AIF has been tracking the amendment since April with only small variations in those numbers.

Apparently, Florida voters are beginning to recognize “Las Vegas casino BS” when they see it.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

5 Comments

  1. Your article states the following:

    “Experts on gambling and state funding say that Maryland is only one of the dozens of states taking gambling revenue meant for education and using it for other purposes.”

    So isn’t the problem that STATES are not using the funds for its intended purposes? The tax revenue is paid to the states by casinos. For instance, MD pays 56% of slot revenues to the state for taxes. So for every dollar made in a Maryland casino (for slots), 56 cents actually goes to the state! A better question is who holds the state accountable for proper usage of the funds?
    Also, we should not cut education budgets and replace them with casino tax revenue, we should ADD the casino revenue to the existing education budget if we want to make an impact.
    Instead of blaming a for-profit, casino company, which in fact pumps millions of tax dollars into a broken system each month. Lets for once hold the government accountable for not properly using our tax dollars. This is my single biggest complaint with US government.

    All of us pay out so many taxes. Payroll, property taxes, sales taxes, taxes on stock sales, taxes from lottery winnings and much more. Yet, this money is constantly wasted, misused and outright stolen by government employees with zero accountability. No other business could operate this way but the government gets a pass and let’s not forget that we still donate money to churches and non-profits that help many people in need so the government has lots of “help” taking care of those less fortunate through generous contributions from its citizens.
    The bottom line for me…..the leaders of the US government needs to held accountable for the funds that it always receives and wastes. It does not need a cent more!

    It is listed publically how much each state receives monthly in casino tax revenues, now let’s FOLLOW THE MONEY!

  2. I am a Florida native (Jacksonville), who was schooled in Bradenton and Sarasota, and had offices in North Miami, when an executive of the Bahamas’ Paradise Island Resort. I am a firm believer that the issue, of gaming expansion or contraction, should remain with the Florida Legislature.
    There is, however, a real danger that any expansion could allow the Seminole Tribe to stop their current Compact payments. But the future of certain FL resort areas could need some form of gaming, to save their hospitality industry, by providing millions of new visitors; just like Atlantic City did, in the late 1970’s.
    There are negative issues to deal with, like traffic congestion, crime increases and compulsive gambling. The FBI Property and Violent crime statistics are misleading, since they do not count visitors in their computations. As a result Orlando; with Disney World, Epcot, Universal Studios, and Sea World; has higher crime rates than Las Vegas or Atlantic City; as do several other Florida resorts. And compulsive gambling could be a bigger problem with the FL Lottery, that keeps 40% of all amounts bet, with high per capita betting in your lower income neighborhoods.
    The real concern, that has most communities voting against a resort casino, is traffic congestion; or as New Jersey faced in its 1974 casino referendum defeat, that would have allowed casinos in any county; was NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). Two years later, with casinos restricted just to Atlantic City, the State’s no vote dropped from 60% to 43%. And for 40 years, resort casinos have saved the resort, at one time creating over 50,000 jobs, $billions of construction, hundreds of $millions in annual taxes, and attracted as many as 35 million annual visitors, most from other states. The addition of gaming in PA, NY, DE and MD, has reduced the extent of the benefits, but 9 casino resorts are still operating.
    But Florida does not have to copy Atlantic City’s experience; and gaming can be introduced in many ways, for different communities. FL already has race tracks with slot machines, full Seminole Tribal casinos in Tampa, and several South Florida locations, along with illegal casino cafes and casino ships, that can operate several miles from shore, from both Atlantic and Gulf Florida ports.
    If a resort community wanted gaming to increase tourism, there are several recommendations to consider. 1) Keep them away from downtown, 2) Place them close to your largest hotel/motel room inventory, 3) Try and locate them close to an Interstate highway off/on ramp, and 4) Size the gaming facility to your tourism infrastructure, including nearby resorts, that have no gaming.
    Casinos and gaming are complex discussions, better understood by a sitting State Legislature, than by a vote of the adult population.

    Melia Smith is very on point with her comment on casino taxes supporting State Government, the Group that would have more for education, with higher gaming taxes.

  3. Peter Schorsch – Thank you. Finally someone puts it flat out in writing publically. Your exactly right. Its all a lie just to set up shop and then turn their backs. Clear example is when we just had the shooting in that Broward school. When the discussion came about where were the funds going to come from to have armed security to protect the children not one casino came forward nor did the state even hint that casinos might pay 1 dime towards protecting the children. The finger was pointed at the tax payers to foot the bill.

    The racetracks that want to expand also want to jeoparize $3 Billion coming from the Seminole Tribe.

    1. Michael, the power isn’t given to Casinos to earmark funds to a particular project, the state makes the allocations. Even when the money is supposed to go toward education, the state plays two games:

      1. Send the money to the state’s general fund and absorb the revenue on “other things”.

      2. Send the money to education (on paper), then reduce the existing budget to education which makes the allocation a complete wash.

      Another direct quote from Dave Clark, a spokesman for the Florida Education Association, a 120,000-member union of education employees.

      “We hoped the Florida lottery would be something that would help our schools,” Clark says. Instead, “The politicians began to use it for other things.”

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