Florida may scratch 8-year gambling itch

Feb 12, 2002 3:27 AM


It seems like every eight years a gambling referendum comes up in the state of Florida. Chances are this one will go down in flames too.

Nevertheless, Rep. Roger Wishner wants to put the question on the November ballot. Wishner sees a casino building boom from Miami to Tampa to Jacksonville that would put people to work.

“Billions of dollars could be generated through this,” said Wishner. “This could be an immediate shot in the arm.”

However, the obstacles are again great. Gov. Jeb Bush opposes any expansion of gambling in Florida beyond the options that citizens already have, such as the Lottery, casinos in Indian reservations and gambling cruise boats.

Casino proponents have gotten a constitutional amendment on the ballot three times (1994, 1986, 1978) in the past 25 years only to be defeated resoundingly on Election Day each time.

John Sowinski, spokesman for Orlando-based No Casinos, Inc., said the people have spoken on the question before and will oppose this effort too.

“For every dollar it generates, there’s $3 to $10 in public cost for the social cost.”

Bayou awaits casino

The Jena Band of Choctaws are awaiting federal government approval for a casino to be built near Baton Rouge, La.

Gov. Mike Foster confirmed that he has agreed to help the Jena tribe win approval to build a casino in the South Louisiana town of Vinton, not far from the Texas border.

The casino would be located 23 miles closer to Texas than the private riverboats in Lake Charles.

The compact must be approved by the U.S. Interior Department and its Bureau of Indian Affairs.